The Wild, Wild Women of Wakki-Nunu!
nytheatre.com review by Kristin Skye Hoffmann
May 12, 2008
Do What Now Media has produced a performance with The Wild, Wild Women of Wakki-Nunu that is, in a word, ambitious. It involves action, adventure, dancing, comedy, impressive multimedia, theme park rides, and much, much more. In fact, it is ambitious to a fault. There is simply too much too see.
This is the story of Jake Manley, a womanizing, failing television show host, played by writer-director-producer-designer Frank Cwiklik, who has his whole world turned upside down on him when his show is cancelled and he and his sidekick, Cubby (adorably played by Patrick Pizzolorusso), concoct a scheme to stage some photos of the lost Amazon Women of Wakki-Nunu to maintain their careers. They convince a budding starlet named Bunny (sweetly played by Becky Byers), and her ultra-feminist BFF Stevie (competently played by Samantha Mason) to go along for the ride. The fact that it took one solid hour of the show to get through this exposition indicates what's problematic about this melodramatic farce.
Cwiklik has an extremely appealing concept and is obviously very skilled at the theatrical craft. He takes the archetypal characters of your average everyday melodrama and mixes in Las Vegas-style entertainment—i.e., sex, swearing and showgirls—and puts it in a black box theatre and says go. He has a good story going where a womanizer learns his lesson by getting just what he always wanted and a raging feminist finally realizes that man-hating will never make her happy. Speaking about the balance of the sexes is vital to the survival of any society. It is really a good, solid story. The writing is quick and witty in parts and the project as a whole could have potentially worked very well. Unfortunately, I think having one person doing practically all the jobs of an entire production company can be troublesome. It feels like no one said, "Hey, is this joke really necessary or are we just doing it because it might be funny?" Someone needs to say that! There can only be so many gags and takes to the audience and gratuitous sexual references before we finally plaster a blank grin on our faces and wait to be let go. Good comedy has substance, and so does The Wild, Wild Women of Wakki-Nunu; the substance is just floating around in a sea of anti-necessity.
There are some very impressive and delightful moments here that must be recognized. Kevin Myers and Sarah E. Jacobs are an adorable pair who demonstrate brilliant comic timing. Myers plays Carl, the show's homosexual sort-of-narrator, a former NYC lawyer who willingly moved to the legendary Amazonian land. Jacobs plays Nug, the wisest of the Amazons, who has elected to be his cleaning lady. She sports a "Nug Hearts Carl" tattoo and speaks only his name. Literally. They play beautifully off of one another and are a joy to watch. Also, Byers has the unique ability to charm us with obnoxiousness while turning her eyes into giant, moist orbs full of hope and dreams of being a pinup girl. It really is a gift. The dancers are extremely skilled and all of the members of the ensemble are astonishingly energetic and definitely seem to be enjoying themselves, which makes this evening of theatre somewhat entertaining. This show is like a handful of emeralds thrown into a warehouse filled with cotton balls. The only thing that we really want are the gems, but we have to paw through the extra fluff to get to them and who knows how long that will take? It almost isn't worth it in the end.
The cast is much larger than I think it should be. Many of the sexy Amazon girls double as children and various fleeting characters throughout. The dance numbers are reminiscent of the music videos of the 1980s and are high-energy and full of life, there are just too many of them. They do not further the story, they do not add to the themes of the play. This is extremely evident during the post curtain call grand finale when each principal actor comes out and dances for us. The spectacle lasts for an additional 25 minutes after the two-hour show.
This level of ambition is commendable in independent theatre here in New York and this group of artists have taken on an enormous show and it is no surprise that some loose ends have been left dangling. But there are enough emeralds in this production, that even though it didn't quite go off without a hitch this time around, I will definitely keep my eye open for what they try out next.