Regional Reviews: Boston
The Wild Party
Also see Josh's review of That Time the House Burned Down
The largely young actors add another layer of pretend to this cast of bohemians. Everyone at this party is wearing a kind of disguise anyway, concealing their disillusions in whatever part they choose to play: the sharp-tongued best friend, the fiercely committed wife, the star athlete, the ingénue hungry for a taste of the city. Michael John LaChiusa's score, a raucous vaudevillian pastiche with the dissonance turned up, asks a lot of its singers. Thanks to music director and conductor Dan Rodriguez, the tempos are brisk, and the cast nails the period stylings and tough overlapping chorus lines (helped by a capable nine-person orchestra).
Standouts in the ensemble include Davron S. Monroe and Terrell Foster-James as the D'Armano brothers, a piano duo who sing and spar in sharp witticisms over the tinkling ivories; Carla Martinez as the sultry Kate, who's been bruised before but still comes back; and the haunting Janelle Yull as Sally, who wanders the party like a rag doll, her eyes blackened and wan. She's an empty spectre observing the party: a reminder of the ghosts everyone's trying to forget tonight.
The party's hosts are Queenie (Katie Anne Clark), the blonde chorine who wants to get wild, and her insatiably jealous husband Burrs (Todd Yard. The chemistry between both actors is mitigated by Burrs's abuse of Queenie-and this staging does not shy away from his brutality. It's an uncomfortable role, which Todd Yard finds a way to humanize even at Burrs's most despicable. Yard switches from dangerous to tender on a dime, and he throws himself into his caustic solo numbers (modeled after Al Jolson and minstrel songs) with go-for-broke gusto. He's the most unforgivably honest character, spilling guests' secret indiscretions and broadcasting his own love for his wife with manic sincerity. In contrast, Katie Anne Clark starts off as a highly stylized Queenie, excessively girlish, laughing off anything serious that would spoil her fun. Clark is quite good as the night begins to sour and Queenie starts to let down her façade, little by little.
There are shortcomings in Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe's original book. For all the ugliness that precedes it, Queenie's final moment of self-realization feels too vague for the actress to pull off any real transformation. And the one character who never seems clear is Black (Cristhian Mancinas-García), the enigmatic "moocher" who seduces Queenie and provides the catalyst for the party's self-destruction. Black and Queenie share a few moving duets, but the character isn't more than a cardboard cutout, and Cristhian Mancinas-García doesn't make him more interesting. It's up to everyone else to bring the party to its end.
As the evening comes to its close, fading star Dolores Montoya (the sly diva Shana Dirik) slinks like a spider back into an empty apartment. "I can tell you that no party lasts forever," she warns in her 11 o'clock number, and it's clear from Dirik's proud delivery that Dolores knows her luck in show business has run out. This scene strikes at the heart of Moonbox's take on The Wild Party: the song is a stirring showcase for Dirik, but we also feel the brutal chill of morning. The party's over; it's time to call it a day.
The Wild Party is presented by Moonbox Productions through May 1, 2016, at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02116. Tickets are $40-45, and can be purchased at moonboxproductions.org or 617-933-8600.
Director/Choreographer: Rachel Bertone; Music Director: Dan Rodriguez; Producing Artistic Director: Sharman Altshuler; Set Design: Allison Olivia Choat; Costume Design: Marian Bertone; Lighting Design: John R. Malinowski; Sound Design: Brian McCoy; Properties Master/Scenic Charge: Cameron McEachern; Technical Director: Dale Conklin; Stage Manager: Alexandra Shoemaker; Assistant Stage Manager: Amanda Ostrow; Assistant to the Director: Matthew Kossack; Stage Violence Designer: J.T. Turner; Production Manager: Julie Marie Langevin