By Sue Tiedeck
Anyone looking for a cure for the winter or post-holiday blues should head to Hedgerow Theatre to see On the Verge, the comedy its director Kittson O’Neill calls a “tonic for the soul,” which runs through February 8.
Eric Overmyer’s witty, inventive and imaginative play follows three Victorian-era explorers who travel the globe hoping to find new lands. That they do, indeed, as they manage to somehow travel forward in time from 1888 into the future, encountering unusual characters and unknown, mysterious objects. In addition, the trio of ladies discover new possibilities within themselves.
O’Neill, currently the Artistic Associate for Interact Theatre Company in Philadelphia, has acted in many local venues and appeared in commercials and independent films. She’s delighted to be making her Hedgerow directorial debut with On the Verge. “It’s such a joyful play that embraces the theatrical in its writing and conception,” she explained. “It says very boldly that it’s a story happening in a very magic space, and there’s no more magical place than a theater. It invites us to dig down into who we are as humans and grab the optimum part of ourselves. It teaches us that going unafraid into the future is always better than letting fear guide you.”
The core of the play, O’Neill continued, “is the friendship of these three women. Overmyer has written them as complete, complex people, and it’s a treat to see women portrayed so well.” The challenge in producing the show, she added “is that the situations he places them in are difficult to make real on stage. They’re sent to ice fields and swamps, and we can’t really flood the stage with mud, so it’s up to the actors to pull it off. We watch them use their bodies and reactions to transport us to different places, aided by the amazing work of the designers who created our set, lights and sound to help evoke the spaces.”
O’Neill has enjoyed working with the talented four-member cast, all experienced performers well-known to Hedgerow audiences. The travelers are portrayed by Executive Director Penelope Reed, who’s been active on stage and behind-the-scenes since 1990; Jennifer Summerfield, recently seen in Hamlet, Sense and Sensibility and Macbeth; and Maryruth Stine, who appeared in Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and The Crucifer of Blood. Eight other roles are all played by Brock Vickers, a Hedgerow Fellow seen this year in Sense and Sensibility, Communicating Doors, Hamlet and A Christmas Carol.
If Overmyer’s funny and clever wordplay-filled adventure and good performances aren’t enough enticement, O’Neill encourages people to see On the Verge based on her reaction to it. “When we first began rehearsals, I had had a tough year, and events in the world made it seem like an angrier and more hostile place with a future that doesn’t seem so bright. Then I was surrounded by this wonderful play that changed my outlook and gives me hope. It’s so positive about change and progress and conveys the message that the best is yet to come.”