Theater Review: On the Verge a convoluted adventure

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Playwright Eric Overmyer’s On the Verge narrates the adventures of three Victorian ladies, whose expeditions to the far corners of the earth make them unique. Mary (Pat Staaf), Fanny (Margaret Raether) and Alex (Katie Maringer-Corirossi) each explored Africa and the Far East. Overmyer brings them together for a journey to Terra Incognita that eventually leads them to modern times and the age of rock and roll.

How this writer of television crime stories came to envision the complicated lives of these three women is a bit of a puzzle. As Raether says in her bio, the sophisticated and sometimes obscure language of the play has been “an educational experience.” Recalling adventures of the past and the unusual people they have met brings to the stage Stephen Vrtol III. Playing every role from a German dirigible aviator to the leather-clad motorcyclist of 1955, his ability to evoke laughter continues to liven the performance.

Martin McClendon’s stark set gives us the opportunity to envision the worldwide adventure. Clever doors open to reveal artifacts—“I Like Ike” buttons and antique egg beaters that become part of the ladies’ costumes. Jan Bacino’s costume designs replicate the drab attire of the 1880s, but on arriving in 1955, the red satin gown and glittering tiara worn by Raether adds brilliance to the stage.

The space at Cheek Theatre always challenges, but Richard Raether’s directing skills overcome every problem. Artists’ Ensemble ends their second successful season with sold-out houses and financial stability. The richness and variety of performance in Rockford continues to amaze me. The Rock River Times publishes pages of cultural events that rise far above those of much larger cities. Newcomers to our town are awed by the opportunities here. The convenience of a short drive and reasonable tickets attract many seniors, and in an aging population, that bodes well for the entertainment industry.

On the Verge runs through May 28 at the Cheek Theatre on the Rockford College campus. Tickets are available by calling 226-4100. Do inquire about next season.

From the May 24-30, 2006, issue

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