Monday, June 10, 2013
Theater review: Mesquite Community Theatre’s The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild is a fun, if uneven romp
The cast tends to overdo the comedy at the detriment of real laughs.
MESQUITE What do you get when you combine King Kong, Gone with the Wind, and a woman that is obsessed with movies to the point of living through them in her dreams? The answer is The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Paul Zindel, which explores the exploits of one woman and her love of movies. In her collection she possesses 40 years-plus of movie magazines.
Movies are rampant throughout our entire world, having a huge effect in how culture is perceived and especially how other countries perceive the United States. This bizarre comedy shows the effects that movies can have and how they can affect some people today, causing them to live in a fantasy from their dreams. As with everything else, there is always the good and bad. The bad is that Mildred ignores her problems. The good is that it gives her ideas and helps her to cope.
Mildred Wild finds escape in a dream world that she created for herself, based on the 3,000-plus movies she has eagerly devoured. This dream world blurs the lines between reality and imagination, helping her to cope whenever reality intrudes. This reality takes the personage of her husband, her sister-in-law and various others that force her to confront reality. Her dream becomes her reality, or so she thinks, when she receives a phone call from Hollywood saying that she had won a contest . . . but what has she won? You’ll have to watch it to find out. This play has many different intrigues, from secrets about her husband to Mildred’s dreams. These stories will immerse you into the escapades of Mildred Wild.
The first thing that I noticed when I walked to my seat at the Mesquite Community Theatre was the amazingly detailed set designed by Jeff Medley. The stage was divided into three parts. These consisted of the kitchen/dining room area, the living room and the bedroom, set up as a small studio apartment. In addition to the three areas were separate exits, one leading to the bathroom, another leading to the pantry and the last leading to the front door. The apartment had the look of being rundown, showing a family that is going through very real struggles. The reality of the set helped draw the audience members into the story and placed them very successfully in Greenwich Village, the living quarters of the Wild family.
The lighting, designed by Scott Croy, was good, creating an ambient atmosphere during the realistic scenes of the play. I enjoyed seeing the disco lights as segue into the dream sequences, though it broke the sequence when the lighting pattern changed for the last dream sequence. Other than this instance, the lighting fit perfectly within the context of the play.
Emily Reyna-Hunt designed the costumes which were appropriate for the setting of the play. The variety that existed between reality and dream and how the two interacted with each other was both interesting and helped place me in the specific dream sequences. The usage of the historical/movie costumes worked well in the context of the play and all of the costumes gave good insights into what their character was like.
The costumes revealed more about the character’s personalities. In the dream sequences Mildred’s whimsical nature was revealed through her dress, and in reality the sister and the landlady were shown as very business-oriented women.
Cindy He’s props were very effective in helping make the scenes more believable and interesting. Though they were simple, they added a lot to the stage and helped me imagine I was really present within the scenes, adding to the realism of the show. Seeing Mildred’s bedroom and how it was overflowing with magazines helped put her into context and contributed positively to the image of the play.
The choreography, done by Kimberly Ann Cooper, was a distraction to the show, though the dancing between Mildred and her husband added some comic appeal. It looked as if the actors had only a vague idea of what they were supposed to be doing onstage. It was also too simplistic, in which the music overlay did not add to the show or make it seem real in the context of the dream sequence in which it took place. Their attempt to portray a very Hollywood glam feeling was not successful.
Director Tony Carpenter’s staging was good. However, the way that the characters were portrayed was not. It was apparent that the actors thought their lines were funny throughout the entire show, which meant that they were acting for laughs instead of being true to their characters in the show. This distraction made it impossible to see the show as a quality work of art. Though there were some real comedic moments, these were few and far between.
Mildred Wild, played by Julie Phillips, was enjoyable to watch. She portrayed an interesting character completely obsessed with Hollywood fairly successfully. I especially enjoyed seeing her during the dream sequences and how she interacted with the set, props, and the other characters onstage at these times. Though she was comical to watch, she could have gone even further with the choices, making her character even more interesting and dynamic.
Al Wall was able to create a believable character in his portrayal of Roy Wild, though at times his line delivery felt unnatural. This made it impossible to see a real contrast between Roy and Mildred that could have helped make the play stand out as a quality piece. That being said, his expressions throughout the play were comical and added a lot to his character’s personality.
Emily Reyna-Hunt was exceptional in her portrayal of Helen Wild, perfectly creating the sister that wants her brother and sister-in-law to be more responsible and self-sufficient. She combined someone who cares yet is fed up with the choices they had made, with someone who doesn’t want to deal with them anymore. However, there were times where it looked as if she was trying to remember her lines, which pulled me out of the show.
Suzanne Mobarak portrayed the part of Bertha Gale, the landlady. Her character was difficult to follow since she didn’t seem to be fully immersed in the scenes. Mobarak’s character is devoted to her business, yet she struggled with Gale’s real desire, though I will say these were unclear at times throughout the play.
Norm Cross, playing Carroll Chatham, was comedic in his role as Mildred’s best friend. Cross was able to play the character fully, creating comedic havoc on stage. The wide variety of film characters he portrayed was admirable and he demonstrated skill in making each of the characters his own. I enjoyed seeing the different characters that he portrayed and how he pulled them off successfully.
Mesquite Community Theatre’s presentation of The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild has many enjoyable funny moments. If you’re a fan of older movies, you will enjoy the references given and the quotes they use. Even if there are some uneven performances, I recommend this show as a fun and enjoyable piece.
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