Regional Reviews: St. Louis
whither should I fly
Seemingly inspired by the #MeToo movement, these strange sisters carry large knives and exact their vengeance offstage, against abusive men, and report back on the "accidental" deaths they've caused, in unsolvable ways. Thalia Cruz plays Helen, a nice young woman lured into the coven by Vera (co-author Wales). Rules and regulations underpin the story, as in any cult or religiondelivered in hushed and urgent challenges to the initiate. And structurally these come, like mile-markers, as we proceed toward a very funny witches' convention in the second half. But the persistent, vaguely oppressive chill in the air comes from the visual and aural power of the actors, and their droning chants delivered in black costumes and masks.
wither shall I fly has atmosphere to spare, both super-dark and twistedly comedic. The group is led by Alicen Moser, who eventually makes an appearance as the grand and beautiful Raven, contrasted by Ms. Cruz, supplying the genuine innocence of an outsider. Marcy Wiegert, the quiet fulcrum in several great shows lately, is Nyx, a mythological, snake-like presence, peering out from behind straight black hair. And Miranda Jagels Felix is exotic and fantastical, with her Spanish accent and carnivorous delight. Tori Thomas is equally strong, conveying that quiet lustfulness we usually associate with notorious serial killers.
So that's the first part, which is especially dark and fearsome, evoking a genuine dread for our souls. I distracted myself from all of this, and from my eternal doom, as any St. Louisan would, by thinking over and over, "man, I got a great parking space!" (right outside the theater, around the corner from The Fabulous Fox).
The second half comes along without a break, but changes gears seamlessly into a fast and funny confab of Satan's brides. It turns out they finance a lot of their doings through high-pressure pyramid schemes, promising riches and power for those who take partincluding an Amway type series of sales pitches delivered by a hilariously fast-talking chorus. It's the first performance I think I've ever seen that puts you in dire fear of your soul and then whips you into a frenzy over fame and fortune. (Not counting various televangelists I could mention in what they sometimes call the "prosperity ministry.")
But this is a lot more bracing and frightening and just plain funny. The plot structure may seem familiar toward the end, but it's done in a grand style, gothic and outrageous, and totally admirable.
whither should I fly, through November 10, 2018, by Theatre Nuevo, in partnership with ERA Theatre's Faustival 2018, at the Centene Center of the Arts, 3457 Olive Street, St. Louis MO. For more information visit www.theatrenuevo.com.