Wonder Comes on the 7th Day
nytheatre.com review by Robin Reed
May 6, 2005
I’m the first one to forgive glitches in the theatre. today's high-tech, expensive world, I am grateful to see people still chomping away at the bit, bare bones, doing the work that they are called to do.
So I applaud the folks over at the American Theatre of Actors. Just blocks away from the bright lights of Broadway, they plug away in their small, downtown-esque space, doing the work that means something to them.
But Wonder Comes on the 7th Day, which just ended a short run at ATA, seems worlds away from both Broadway and edgy downtown theater. In this world of not-quite-in-between but not-quite-on-either-team, I was left in an uncomfortable limbo. And I just couldn’t connect with the play.
The story itself centers on preparing for Grandma’s 80th birthday party. Preparations involve Father taking his arthritis meds, Mother doing the grocery shopping, and Son coming home after a long time away. Fairly straightforward, save for the fact that nobody particularly cares for one another. And when nobody on stage cares for each other, a wall gets built between actor and audience, leaving the audience hard-pressed to care about what’s going on on stage.
Writer/director Barry Primus’s play rambles on but doesn’t back itself up. The script goes into great detail about the furniture and that it is expensive and rare. The pieces they chose to use for the set were clearly from IKEA. Fine, nobody is going to lend their Eames chair to a play, but at least dress the cheap stuff up in a fancy outfit!
This lack of concern seems to carry over to the acting as well. Although the players are physically on the same stage, they never seem to be in the same world with one another. Primus has written in monologues filled with Mamet-like utterances that I assume are meant to be character- and actor-driven, but come across as the work of the heavy hand of the playwright. I felt like I was watching Method Acting students do classroom exercises. There are little things, like why does Mom enter from the market barefoot? Then she goes to the table upstage and comes downstage with shoes on. Mom emotes in a monologue. Father and son emote at each other. When Grandma finally enters at the end of Act I, her one line is delivered in a burst of emoting too.
In the end, as much as I applaud their effort, I don’t see what they’re really going for over in Wonder Comes on the 7th Day. But I do appreciate the fact that they’re doing it because, even though I didn’t, they obviously love it.