Forge Repertory Theatre, one of the newer small theater companies in Kansas City, kicks off its inaugural season with Eric Overmyer’s “On the Verge, or the Geography of Yearning,” a comic meditation on language, perception and intuition first staged in 1985.
As far as I know, this is the first local production of Overmyer’s script, an absurdist romp in which three Victorian women embark on a journey of exploration only to somehow penetrate the space-time continuum and land in 1955 America.
A good share of the humor stems from their discovery of artifacts from the future — manual egg beaters, a water pistol, an “I Like Ike” button, a 1972 newspaper article about Richard Nixon — for which they have no name or reference. At the same time odd phrases, words and names keep popping into their heads — Mr. Coffee, hand jive, Bebe Rebozo.
The Forge production, directed by Ryan Fortney, is a little rough around the edges, and the actors strive to execute the material with varying levels of success. Veteran actress Nancy Marcy heads the cast as Mary Baltimore and shares the stage with three actors from Forge Rep’s emerging artist company — Sonia Gwin as Fanny Cranberry, Annie Schwaner as Alexandra Cafuffle and Jace Willcutt, who plays eight roles, including a mystic, a yeti, a psychic, an American teenager from the 1950s and Nicky Paradise, the suave owner of a vacation resort.
Wilcutt is impressive as he shifts in and out of wildly disparate characters with a surprising degree of specificity. Schwaner brings energy, humor and charisma to Alexandra. Gwin, making her professional debut, projects a pleasing stage presence, although her voice didn’t always carry in the intimate performance space. I hadn’t seen Marcy on stage in quite awhile and it was a pleasure to watch her work, inhabiting the the world of the play with relaxed authority.
Ultimately, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this two-act piece could have been compressed into 90 minutes or less and retain the freshness and audacity that Overmyer intended. As it is, the show feels show feels a bit too long. Though often clever, it never quite makes a point.
Regardless, this play represents a bold choice for a new theater company to announce its presence. And the rest of the season is full of challenging material. Forge is a company to watch.
“On the Verge, or the Geography of Yearning” runs through Dec. 15 at the Black Box, 1060 Union Ave. Call 816-226-7154 or go to forgerep.org.