×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Wildflower

Short script has excellent roots, with firm characterizations and graceful dramaturgy.

With:
Erica - Nadia Bowers James - Quincy Dunn-Baker Mitchell - Ron Cephas Jones Randolph - Jake O'Connor Astor - Renee Felice Smith

With a little watering and some more sunlight, Lila Rose Kaplan’s “Wildflower” will grow up to be a mighty play about love and death. Short script has excellent roots, with firm characterizations and graceful dramaturgy that combine to give the text a surprising slickness (borne out in the all-pro production). But speaking of surprise, the piece so violently yanks the rug out from under the aud in its final minutes that some earlier, quieter nuances vanish in the shadow of the expert “gotcha!” Helmer Giovanna Sardelli draws killer perfs from the whole cast, especially Ron Cephas Jones and Quincy Dunn-Baker.

Randolph (Jake O’Connor), his mother Erica (Nadia Bowers) wants everyone to know, is “a genius, but we’re still working on manners.” The two have just moved to Crested Butte, Colo., a town where the flowers are plentiful, the rednecks are willowy and beautiful, and the teenagers are in heat. It’s a little bit Midwest-of-the-Mind, but it’s nothing to get bent out of shape over — Kaplan chooses a pastoral surrounding because she has some very specific plans, not because she has an ax to grind.

Both newcomers acquire a romantic pursuer in what feels like their first few minutes in town. Erica attracts the attentions of local ladykiller James (Dunn-Baker), a cowboy type with a gift for the wrong word and a great deal of aggression to compensate for what appears to be a genuine fear of womenfolk. Dunn-Baker’s portrayal nicely walks a thin line between churlish ignorance and amusingly innocent confusion.

As for Randolph’s, his mom’s de facto boss is a teenage girl named Astor (Renee Felice Smith) whose idea of a job interview is to ask, “Does your son have a boyfriend?”

Astor and Randolph’s courtship is fun to watch, with awkward, friendless Randolph at first unable even to register Astor’s unasked-for advances. She doesn’t mind, of course — by the middle of the play, Astor’s primary mode of communication with her crush has become an hourly verbal sucker punch in the form of a horrible sexual factoid (“Catherine the Great slept with a horse!” she proclaims to the home-schooled virgin).

 O’Connor is very good as said virgin, looking both downcast and angry most of the time and speaking sincerely (at first) only to his plant, which reminds him of his deadbeat botanist dad. The first person who can actually get him to open up is Mitchell (Jones), who runs the inn where mother and son are staying, and whose unfailing kindliness would look silly on anyone else. It’s hard to play saintly and stay likable, but every movement of Jones’ body screams “backstory” — enough to fill another play on its own.

Set designer Steven C. Kemp has given Sardelli hugely overlapping playing spaces, which works perfectly here, keeping the piece intimate while maintaining separate locales.

The less said about the play’s big surprise, the better, but it’s worth noting that Kaplan’s groundwork is hard to criticize. Suffice to say that when the performance is over, you’re thinking more about whether you liked the ending than what it means for the characters, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. On the other hand, the decision runs gleefully counter to the play’s occasional undercurrent of whimsy, which is a good thing indeed.

 On the whole, Kaplan’s capper is such a provocative one that it’s impossible not to recommend “Wildflower,” if only to stimulate conversation. Is the twist ending a fresh green shoot, or merely fertilizer?

Wildflower

McGinn/Cazale Theater; 99 seats; $50 top

Production: A Second Stage Theater Uptown presentation of a play in one act by Lila Rose Kaplan. Directed by Giovanna Sardelli.

Creative: Set, Steven C. Kemp; costumes, Paloma Young; lighting, Lap Chi Chu; sound, Jill B. C. Du Boff; production stage manager, Rachel Motz. Opened July 27, 2009. Reviewed July 23. Running time: 1 HOUR, 20 MIN.

Cast: Erica - Nadia Bowers James - Quincy Dunn-Baker Mitchell - Ron Cephas Jones Randolph - Jake O'Connor Astor - Renee Felice Smith

More Legit

  • Audra McDonald Frankie and Johnny

    Listen: How Audra McDonald Faced Her Fear in 'Frankie and Johnny'

    When producers offered Audra McDonald a role in “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” opposite Michael Shannon, she immediately said yes. Then she remembered the nude scene. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “Hell, yes, there was trepidation,” the Tony-winning actress said on the new episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast. “I was [...]

  • A Strange Loop review

    Off Broadway Review: 'A Strange Loop'

    “No one cares about a writer who is struggling to write,” sings the anxiety-ridden lead character in Michael R. Jackson’s sometimes exhilarating, sometimes exasperating new musical, “A Strange Loop,” at Playwrights Horizons. The abundantly talented Jackson takes the otherwise tired trope of the young, poor and sensitive artist trying to discover his true self and [...]

  • Richard E Grant Everybody's Talking About

    Richard E. Grant to Play Former Drag Queen in 'Everybody's Talking About Jamie'

    Oscar-nominated actor Richard E. Grant will portray a former drag queen and mentor in “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” the movie adaptation of the British stage musical. “Catastrophe” co-creator and star Sharon Horgan and “Happy Valley” star Sarah Lancashire have also joined the film. Max Harwood will play the titular role of Jamie, a role inspired [...]

  • The Secret Life of Bees review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Secret Life of Bees'

    There’s a sweet sense of sisterhood that’s simply divine in “The Secret Life of Bees,” the heartwarming new musical at the Atlantic Theater Company based on Sue Monk Kidd’s bestselling 2002 coming-of-age novel, set in South Carolina in 1964 amid Civil Rights struggles. (A 2008 film adaptation starred Dakota Fanning and Queen Latifah.) The feeling [...]

  • 10 Comics to Watch

    Variety Announces 10 Comics to Watch for 2019

    Variety has chosen its 10 Comics to Watch for 2019. The honorees will be profiled in the July 18 issue of Variety and at the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal at a cocktail party on Thursday, July 25, followed by a panel and showcase on Friday, July 26. The events are sponsored by Cohen & Gardner LLP. The [...]

  • Vanessa Hudgens So You Think You

    Vanessa Hudgens, Hailey Kilgore to Star in Reading of 'The Notebook' Musical

    Vanessa Hudgens and Tony-nominee Hailey Kilgore are joining an upcoming reading of Ingrid Michaelson’s stage adaptation of “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks. Tony nominee Michael Greif is set to direct the reading, which will open June 23 at Vassar College’s Martel Theater as part of their Powerhouse Theater season. Kilgore will star as the younger [...]

  • Moulin Rouge director Alex Timbers

    'Beetlejuice,' 'Moulin Rouge!' Director Alex Timbers on Creating Worlds on Broadway

    In the past year, Alex Timbers has directed the Tony-nominated “Beetlejuice” and the stage adaptation of “Moulin Rouge!” (which begins previews June 28 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre). Here, he reflects on his most recent projects and the challenges of bringing two iconic movie musicals to Broadway within a year.  Both your musicals live in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content