Niagara Falls: a place of romance! Wonder! Or not.
In Studio Players’ production of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Wonder of the World, the traditional honeymoon destination is the location for a comedy about two people running from marriages and ghosts that haunt them.
“It’s the perfect setting for it,” says Alynne Miller, who plays the leading lady, Cass, who begins the show telling her husband that she’s leaving him after discovering a disturbing secret.
Director Carly Moreno says, “There’s a mystique about Niagara Falls, and that’s the backdrop for all of this self-discovery for these people trying to make sense of their own lives. That’s important to note, because Niagara Falls is known of this place for love and beauty, and all of these really dark things keep happening, and keep being discussed in this play. It’s a nice counter for it.”
Lindsay-Abaire is not the first to set something other than a fine romance at the falls. His script states that as Cass is preparing to leave home, she is watching Niagara, a 1953 thriller in which Marilyn Monroe and her husband travel to Niagara Falls, where she meets another man and draws the ire of her husband, played by Joseph Cotten.
The events in Wonder of the World proceed with a lighter tone than Niagara, although it can get fairly grim. Cass leaves with a notebook-long bucket list of things she wants to do with her newfound freedom, seemingly all in this one trip. On a bus ride, she meets and befriends Lois, a freshly dumped woman determined to get her revenge by going over the falls in a barrel. And Cass’s husband doesn’t accept that their marriage is over.
“I didn’t like this person, at first, because she’s kind of mean,” Miller says of of her character. “She does bad things, but ultimately for good reasons.
“This is the first time she’s been on her own, so she’s not making the best choices. She’s just kind of flying.”
So is the show. Moreno, who likes directing comedies, says one of the challenges she enjoys in a show like Wonder of the World is keeping up with its fast pace.
“There’s just one turning point after another,” Moreno says. “Each scene building on the last, and nothing can go back to the way it was before, because of the new revelation or the new big plot twist. It’s just as fast as we can go.”
The modus operandi at Studio Players is for directors to pitch scripts they would like to direct. The theater’s board then chooses what it wants to produce. Moreno says she came across Wonder while reading through scripts and picking it as the one that kept her laughing, and it had relatable characters.
“Every character is going through their own journey of self-discovery, but it’s just mishap after mishap after mishap,” Moreno says. “As you get older, you look back and think, ‘Oh well, could have done that different. There’s this sense that we all make bad choices for good reasons, and I think that’s the darkness you see.”
Miller says she liked the way the play portrays situations a lot of people have experienced and then takes them to extremes.
She says, “It definitely gives you the idea that whatever you’re going through, it could be worse.”
If You Go
‘Wonder of the World’
What: Studio Players’ production of David Lindsay-Abaire’s comedy
When: Jan. 14-31. 8 p.m. opening night, Fridays and Saturdays. 2:30 p.m. Sundays.
Where: Carriage House Theatre, 154 W. Bell Court
Tickets: $21 general audiences, $11 students