GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV)
Action moves as an interlocking puzzle in “This Random World (The Myth of Serendipity).”
The trickiness is typical of playwright Steven Dietz, whose “Becky’s New Car” has been popular in this area.
This time, Steven Dietz’s characters are weighing in on mortality.
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Theatre and Dance has an excellent production of “This Random World (The Myth of Serendipity)” running for three more performances in Jean Weidner Theatre on campus.
Director John Mariano has his cast honed in on the many angles of the pieces of the interlocking puzzle.
In the story are oil-and-water siblings Tim and Beth, who are evaluating their stand-off and/or avoided aging mother, Scottie. On the sly, Scottie has been traveling with her young aide, Rhonda, whose sister, Claire, once dated Tim. Beth takes a daring trip to Nepal, there meeting Gary, who just had a tense departure “date” with Claire.
Like a puzzle, everyone fits into a larger picture. That picture is somewhat about matters of unknowns in life, of little things, of happenstance.
Steven Dietz uses the word “random,” which sometimes in this play is awfully close to “coincidence.” Either way, the characters in the end interlock, though they don’t know it. Intriguing? Yes. That’s Steven Dietz, giving the mind a solid massage.
The players thoroughly absorb their characters. Andi Koene and Aisa Micaiah Rogers radiate the testy nature of Beth and Claire. Sean Stalvey becomes the momma’s favorite (and disappointing) Tim. Ashley Gardner and Brandon Otten portray dual personalities of Rhonda and Gary. Savannah Rose Greiveldinger, as the central piece in the puzzle, offers a tone of calm wisdom as Scottie.
The imagination of Steven Dietz also takes the audience to life beyond life.
This may not sound humorous – and this play is not a comedy as such – but situation after situation bubbles with dark mirth. Beth has a way of sticking pins in her slug of a brother. Rhonda and Claire have a way of not believing reality (that Tim has messed up). Steven Dietz has a way of teasing the audience with situations in which the characters are a nanosecond away from connection, but it never – ha-ha – happens.
The scenic design by Jeffrey Paul Entwistle, who makes a cameo appearance, is a wonder. It is the confluence of concept, construction and carpentry. Key elements start with long beams that rise to a cross beam two stories up. Home Depot doesn’t sell such beams – being impossibly long and/or expensive. What the beams signify… I’m not sure. But ropes winding between some in precise patterns to me signify an interlocking quality found in the story. The performance space includes three levels of flooring – solid wood carefully cut and honed and beveled. The solidity sets up the opportunity for solid performances, which the well-prepared and pliable student cast supplies.
Creative: Playwright – Steven Dietz; director – John Mariano; scenic and properties designer – Jeffrey Paul Entwistle; costume and make-up designer – Kaoime E. Malloy; technical director, lighting designer, sound designer – Dinesh Yadav; assistant technical director – David Cook; production stage manager – Madison Sagen
Scottie Ward – Savannah Rose Greiveldinger
Tim Ward – Sean Stalvey
Beth Ward – Andi Koene
Bernadette – Isabelle Austgen
Rhonda – Ashley Gardner
Claire – Aisa Micaiah Rogers
Gary – Brandon Otten
Tim Ward (another one) – Jeffrey Paul Entwistle
Running time: 85 minutes (no intermission)
Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. March 5-7
NEXT: “DanceWorks,” April 4-5.
THE VENUE: Jean Weidner Theatre is a fully outfitted black-box space (no adornments; focus on the stage) located in the southeast corner of the Edward W. Weidner Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. The space is devoted to UWGB Theatre and Dance programs. Entrance is by way of a set of steps in an “L” in a hallway connecting the theater to the outside in one direction and the rest of the large building in the other. The room has height – more than two stories. The audience enters at approximately a second-story level. Viewing is downward, like that of an amphitheater. The performance space is intimate, demanding that the actors be focused on stage, despite being surrounded by prying eyes. The theater is the smallest of three contained in the Weidner Center.
THE PERSON: Jean Weidner was a psychotherapist and wife of Edward Weidner, founding chancellor of UWGB. The Weidners had four children. Jean Weidner died in 1997. A memorial service was held for her on the stage of the Weidner Center’s main stage amid spectacular set pieces of a touring production of “The Phantom of the Opera.”