Presented by Hub Theatre Company of Boston
Written by Christopher Durang
Directed by Margaret Ann Brady
Review by Travis Manni
(Boston, MA) So you know when you’re in the tuna fish aisle at the grocery store and you end up punching somebody in the head and yelling at a baby to stop crying? Me neither. But this isolated event keeps the plot of Laughing Wild moving forward with enough humor that you start to think it’s actually quite relatable.
Presented by Hub Theatre Company of Boston and hosted in the converted dance space in the rear of Club Café, Laughing Wild is set in 1987 New York City and opens with a Woman who has a very serious problem: people. Just earlier that day, a man was standing in front of her at the grocery store and was blocking the tuna fish cans. So as he crouched down to look at a label, she slammed her fist down on his head and stormed off.
The three things you need to know about this New York City native is that she hates people, she wishes most people were dead, and she’s unapologetic about saying aloud the violent thoughts you only dare to think. In other words, she’s a sarcastic, millennial twentysomething’s inner diva come to life, with a bit of a psychotic past—my kind of lady. Lauren Elias plays the role of the mentally plagued Woman and commits to the part so fully that it’s impossible not to find something familiar in her flaws.
Next up is Man, played by Robert Orzalli. During a speech he gives in an attempt to convey any form of confidence he can muster, we discover that it was Man who got knocked over by the Woman at the grocery store. The three things that Man brings to the table are bigger issues, like global warming, AIDS, and homosexuality, fitting topics for the play’s setting, though drier than Woman’s. The problem with Man’s scene is that the political issues feel forced and stray away from the exaggerated humor that hooked the audience in the first scene. Still, Orzalli plays off the chronically-unhappy-but-trying and sexually confused Man with enough hints of wit that the audience stays focused, just with fewer belly laughs.
In the concluding scene, the audience is assaulted with a montage of dream sequences, including the tuna fish aisle incident on repeat for a few minutes. The Woman sustains some of the humor presented in the first scene, but the Man’s political topics no longer carry much weight. Durang clearly used this scene to explore an odd dreamscape, but if it’s all an unconscious imagining perhaps it’s best to take it with a grain of salt.
Director Margaret Ann Brady allows these characters to run wild so that their lengthy monologues craft a world where the situations presented don’t feel that far-fetched. Elizabeth Havenor’s sound design, though minimal, gives the play’s emotional moments and bits of rising action a nice accent to keep the audience stimulated. However, the award for best sound in the show has to go to Elias for giving Woman such a wonderfully manic cackle the audience is bound to laugh wild right along with her.
For tickets and show times, click here. Laughing Wild runs for 90 minutes with no intermission.