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Monday, July 28, 2008

Review- The Wendy Complex (Midtown International Theatre Festival)

The Fab Marquee review by David Stallings.

Play Festivals are produced in New York to serve as a showcase to producers. They see a script or production that, with improvement, may warrant future development. Productions are often restricted with minimal sets and lighting—not to mention fractional tech or set-up time in the space. It is always with an open and enthusiastic eye that an audience member enters the Festival World. That being said, I was shocked by the technical value and sophistication of Midtown International Theatre Festival’s presentation of the Vagabond Theatre Ensemble’s, The Wendy Complex.

Atley Loughridge, Sarah Ann Masse & Dillon Porter
photo credt: Chris J. Rivera

Writer/Director, Jeremy Bloom, has a true handle on magical realism. He is able to tell a theatrical story where language and imagery combine in a fantastic evening of storytelling. Bloom’s aesthetic reminds audiences that with Anne Bogart, Charles Mee, Mary Zimmerman, and Julie Taymor at the helm, theatre is rapidly parting the realism of film—searching to yet again reinvent itself.

The Wendy Complex has a simple plot. Famed daredevil, Janvier (Kevin Reed), is about to make history by flying in a hot air balloon to the tip of the Earth’s stratosphere—where he will free-fall with nothing but a parachute to save him. His stunt is financed by a Prince (Dillon Porter), and a socialite Funder (Meredith Florenza). Janvier’s wife, Wendy (Atley Loughridge), is simultaneously distraught over her husband’s obvious suicide jump and glorified that he is fulfilling his dream of never growing up but always defying structure.

Dillon Porter
photo credit: Chris J. Rivera

The play itself defies structure as Bloom has invented magical staging that allows his characters to sleep on walls, create the heavens with light, use small fans to create wind, and even fly. All of this is done without rigging or any sophisticate instrumentation. His open eye allows the audience to relax and allow his poetic language to seem natural.

The cast is altogether talented, although they seemed a bit young for their roles. They were all early twenty-somethings playing forty-somethings who still believed they were twenty-somethings. While one understands the power behind using a young cast to portray this sentiment (I am reminded of Merrily We Roll Along), I would also be interested in seeing the play portrayed by an older cast. That being said, Atley Loughridge proves herself to have all the makings of a dramatic leading lady in her turn as the tortured Wendy. Also an immense standout, Sarah Billington Stevens shines as Ramona—an analytical journalist following the story. Her journey is beautiful and the audience is rapturous as they join her in her discovery of the magical.

Atley Loughridge, Meredith Forlenza,
Sarah Ann Masse & Dillon Porter.
photo credit: Chris J Rivera

Another standout in the production is Stephanie Tucci’s fantastical set. It seems simple at first, six white panels hung upstage. The initial eye does not see that some of the panels may stretch across the stage to create other areas and be used by the performers during the magical sequence. The simplicity worked to create a clean aesthetic. Also gorgeous are Erin Schultz’s costumes—all chic and mature, with clean lines and a sophisticated palate. Whimsy is introduced as the performers do not wear shoes—although their wardrobe is mature.

An overall magical experience, The Wendy Complex is a play I would enjoy to see in the future—and everyone should keep an eye out for Jeremy Bloom’s invigorating direction.

Vagabond Theatre Ensemble &
The Midtown International Theatre Festival present
Jeremy Bloom’s
The Wendy Complex
Workshop Mainstage

*This production closed on Sunday, July 27th, 2008. For more MITF shows visit

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