Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Fortunately, Mo Monahan is wonderfully wise and frequently fascinating in this approximately 70-minute comic retelling of her own everyday trials. And, if she's 50 now (a claim I have no reason to disdain), she ought to have this story of failings, failures and flights of fancy built up to a solid two hours' running time by the time she's eighty. I'm putting in my reservation for a ticket to that show right now.
Ably assisted by Alison Helmer and Terry Love, Ms. Monahan is at once a downtrodden working stiff and a towering tree stretching up to the sun, genially looking down on the mad world at her feet. It's hard to imagine anyone else taking on her personal vignettes and mastering their ups and downs with so much charm and grace, and a very funny air of astonishment. She cusses like a sailor but still manages to come off like Maria Von Trapp. She may be our own Bridget Jones, though not the kind who will wait around for a long overdue Mr. Darcy.
It's hard to explain, but Ms. Monahan's story doesn't become truly desolate until the Pope drives off in her second Ford Pinto. Well, metaphorically, at any rate. Even then, like Auntie Mame or Mrs. Madrigal, Mo Monahan somehow muddles through. I suppose it's what everyone hopes to do, once the Infallible one drives off in their doomed, explosive sub-compact vehicle.
Until then, it's the usual story of too many outrageous expectations and ambitions and wild dreams laid out like mousetraps in the dark all around us, told in a remarkably fresh and disarming manner. Partial credit for the brain-tickling structure goes to director Todd Schaefer, who co-wrote the many interludes. And Ms. Helmer and Mr. Love are enjoyable in their many accessory roles, which include fervent nuns and devils with little pitchforks, groaning at Ms. Monahan's latest misstep, or ferociously egging her on.
It all proves one thing: women can afford to be a lot more honest about themselves than men. It would be hard to believe any man could leave himself so sadly, sweetly vulnerable, and then jump through three more comical hoops and sing five more little songs of hope and joy and still manage to get you home before the late news on TV - and leave you wanting to hear about the next 30 years, when they've only just begun.
There are a few familiar echoes of last year's award-winning show, So To Speak, in this latest production by the youthful WAPP company (both feature dreamlike group choreography and MOments has slow-motion running, contrasted with the time-lapse comedy of So To Speak). In lesser hands, it would be tedious and derivative. Here, like the story itself, this excellent company's style already amounts to lovable legacy.
The colorful, evocative slide-show backdrops are by director and co-writer Todd Schaefer. The solo musicians, rotating through the run, include Dana Dockery, Matt Shivelbine, Luda Chemyak, J.T. Ricroft, April Lindsay, and Angie Schultz. The beautiful song lyrics and poetry are by Stanley Smith, with musical accompaniment by Mr. Schaefer.
Through August 19, 2006 at 1529 Washington Avenue, downtown. For information, visit www.thewapp.com or call (314) 534-1111.