By Bob Evans
A new play, “Not with a Bang but a Whimper,” by local playwright Jesse Ray Metcalf continues at the Just Off Broadway Theatre with a cast of local favorites who bring outlandish characterizations to this New Age prediction of earth’s end.
The theme screams the old adage, “blood is thicker than water” in this family-centered comedy. The play cannot be classified a family-friendly unless your family is predominately adult. Strong language permeates the play, so be prepared. The characters, all creatively portrayed and developed by the outstanding cast, all show their ugly side in this show. What’s amazing is that the show delivers laughs minute by minute for the entire 2-act play.
The focus of the play is that an asteroid will collide with earth at the end of the week, and one particular family plans to reunite for their final week. That all sounds fine, but one member, Olive, wants no part of her lost, forgotten family. Olive, an orphan at four blames her family for her unhappy life and loss of her parents. She is kidnapped and returned to her family and begins to learn more and more about them, their flaws, and their personalities.
Olive learns that the family has outstretched its arms to include one outsider, Connor. Other than that, the family unit remains mostly closed. One other outsider helps put the plan and events underway, Snake, a character that is never fully explained or expanded. The tragic character of Giselle adds the biggest conflict and villainy to the mix.
Playwright and director Jesse Ray Metcalf found a good vehicle for the basis of his play. He has flawed characters that the audience embraces for their flaws. He’s got a villain that hisses her evilness with each line. He’s got an ending that suits the theme of the play. All in all, the play works and stands as absurdly funny.
To characterize the characters, it seems Metcalf draws on old TV comedies. One will see characters from The Addams Family, The Munsters, and maybe even Leave it to Beaver. The villain smacks of Cruella DeVille. Other characters are not a easy to identify. This reviewer saw Wednesday Addams, Pugsley, Marilyn of The Munsters, and June and Ward Cleaver. Mr. Belvedere might have been the prototype for Connor. The delightful mix challenges the mind as to identify them.
The cast as a whole work well together. It’s obvious that they all like each other and work well together. Their chemistry is strong; their portrayals are vividly colored to be over the top outlandish; and the costumes are equally over-done to match the show’s absurdity level. All in all, it’s a fun evening for those who like out of the ordinary theater.
Alisa Lynn (Celeste Worthington), Melissa Fennewald (Kittie Worthington), R.H. Wilhoit (Charles Worthington), Ellen Kirk (Florence Worthington), J. Will Fritz (Orson Worthington), Stefanie Stevens (Olive DeFunk), Damian Blake (Connor), AiVy Bui (Faye), Bonnie Griffin (Giselle), Leah Wilczewski (Snake). The production crew: Jesse Ray Metcalf, director; Melissa Fennewald, assistant director; Sarah Thorman, stage manager; Leah Wilczewski, assistant stage manager; Tess Jehle-Ray, sound; Pamela Meadows, lighting; Andrea Awad, set.
“Not with a Bang but a Whimper” continues through April 30 at the Just Off Broadway Theatre. More information can be found at the Just Off Broadway Theatre website .
Tags: “Not with a Bang but a Whimper”, Just Off Broadway Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City Theater,