On The Verge

by Jonathan Leaf

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday June 23, 2016

On The Verge

For the most part, the American theater functions like a bicycle wheel. Whatever is promoted at the center -- New York -- is connected through the spokes out to the periphery. Thus, last year's most touted plays pass on and pop up this year at the leading regional theaters.
But there are exceptions. Every so often a play becomes popular in regional productions, and then it goes on to have a healthy life outside New York without a major New York staging.

One such example is "On The Verge." Written by the highly regarded TV writer-producer Eric Overmyer more than thirty years ago, this witty, offbeat tale of three Victorian women who head off to explore the jungle and wind up time-traveling into the future has become a rep favorite, though it has never had a big Gotham presentation. Nonetheless, it's now getting a small, mostly skillful revival in Tribeca under the aegis of a relatively new group called the Attic Company.

In recent years, Overmyer has become better known as one of the hired hands behind the "Law and Order" serials and for his work with David Simon on "The Wire" and "Treme." But "On The Verge" offers hints that if he had stuck with theater that he might have left a very significant legacy as a dramatist.

While the show's action, such as it is, starts off slowly, there is a wealth of wit in the show, and the second act is quite delightful. As the play opens, our three Victorian explorers (Ella Dershowitz, Emily Kitchens and Monette Magrath) are packing their pith helmets into large bundles and heading off into unexplored regions. But, as they gradually discover, this sets them off not on a path through gorges and rainforests ruled by native savages but into the successive decades of the twentieth century and encounters with Las Vegas lounge singers and Cool Whip dessert topping.

One actor (William John Austin) deftly handles each of the males that the women bump into on their expedition.
Possibly even better is the immensely charming and funny Kitchens as the most Conservative of the dames. Director Laura Braza's production is further aided by Julia Noulin-Merat's versatile but simple set design, which functions equally well as a night sky and as the velvety outlines of a 1950s nightclub.

"On the Verge" has been compared to some of Tom Stoppard's early work, and it is that clever and cerebral. Be prepared, however, for the fact that the show's first act is overlong first act and its two hour twenty minute length with intermission." But, if you can handle that, you should have a good time.

"On The Verge" runs through July 9 at Walkerspace, 46 Walker Street in NYC. For information and tickets, visit www.attictheaterco.com.

Jonathan Leaf is a playwright and journalist living in New York.