×
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

  • The Jungle review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Jungle'

    With the rumbling of semis careening by and the sound of Middle Eastern music in the distance, “The Jungle” aims to vividly immerse audiences into the world of the real-life migrant and refugee camp of the same name. By telling the story of the Jungle’s creation in Calais, France, in 2015, and its eventual destruction [...]

  • Hillary Clinton'Network' play opening night, New

    Hillary Clinton Attends Opening of Broadway's 'Network'

    A 1976 film might not be expected to translate seamlessly to Broadway in 2018, but for the cast and creative team behind “Network,” which premiered Thursday night with Hillary Clinton in the audience, the story still feels uncomfortably close to home. “It was a satire then, and now it’s documentary realism,” said Lee Hall, who [...]

  • 'Network' Review: Bryan Cranston Stars on

    Broadway Review: 'Network' With Bryan Cranston

    The 1976 film “Network” won four Academy Awards, including best original screenplay for writer Paddy Chayefsky, for its blistering portrayal of an American society fueled by greed and bloated on corruption. A haggard Peter Finch took the best actor trophy for his harrowing performance as Howard Beale, a TV newsman who is so disgusted by [...]

  • Faye DunawayVanity Fair Oscar Party, Arrivals,

    Faye Dunaway to Play Katharine Hepburn on Broadway

    Faye Dunaway will return to Broadway to play another acting diva. The Oscar-winner is set to portray Katharine Hepburn in “Tea at Five,” a one-woman play that charts the movie legend’s career over the course of a winding monologue. Dunaway last appeared on Broadway in 1982’s “The Curse of the Aching Heart.” In the 1990s, [...]

  • Philip Bosco'The Savages' film after party,

    Tony Award Winner Philip Bosco Dies at 88

    Veteran character actor Philip Bosco, who won a Tony Award in 1989 for “Lend Me a Tenor” as an opera impresario and was nominated five other times, died Monday, according to his grandson, Luke Bosco. He was 88. Bosco received his first Tony nomination for “Rape of the Belt” in 1960. His other nominations were [...]

  • Hugh Jackman

    Hugh Jackman Says 'Greatest Showman' Success Made Him Revive Stage Show

    Hugh Jackman could have spent his hiatus between movies soaking up rays in Saint-Tropez. Instead of lounging poolside, the movie star will return to the stage for a grueling series of arena performances that will take him across Europe, Australia, and the U.S. The upcoming musical extravaganza, “The Man. The Music. The Show.,” kicks off [...]

  • Bob Mackie, Costume Designer and Cher'The

    Watch Cher's Surprise Performance at the Opening of Broadway's 'Cher' Musical

    Kanye West may have caused some unwanted drama at the opening of Broadway’s “The Cher Show” on Monday in New York, but thankfully his alleged bad behavior didn’t come close to spoiling the evening. Cher herself caused fantastic frenzy as she glided down the aisle of the jam-packed Neil Simon Theatre toward her seat. All [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content