A few weeks ago, St. Lawrence’s Department of Performance and Communication Arts sponsored the comedic production “Wonder of the World.” One of the first comedy plays performed at St. Lawrence in almost ten years, it was not one to be missed.
Each year, the PCA sponsors a main stage production for St. Lawrence students to perform. These pieces have varied wildly even just in the past couple of years, with plays such as “Ashgirl” to the more recent musical “Legally Blonde.” This year Jennifer Thomas, an assistant professor of performance and communication arts and director of the production, decided it was time to do a comedy.
The play is about a woman named Cass and her journey to the edge in search of enlightenment. It is the characters she meets along the way, and the adventures that ensue, that create the whimsical tone of the play. “It’s a comedy,” says Thomas, “so everything is pretty whacky in terms of content.”
“A comedy is really hard for students,” Thomas explained, which explains why they are not performed as often as conventional plays. “You have to do the same play, and yet you have to respond to each different audience giving you feedback.” In a typical play, you do not have to respond to verbal responses, but rather perform what you rehearsed. So while there was also intense rehearsal requirements for “Wonder of the World,” the cast was also expected to be receptive to each night’s audience.
Another element of a comedy, is the question of ‘why am I laughing?’ In this respect, Thomas says that comedy can be dangerous. Whether it is politically incorrect, uncomfortable, or outside social norms, she says we have to ask ourselves “what gives us permission to laugh at one and be offended by the other.” “Wonder of the World” was full of these moments, with not a single audience member leaving without being at least a little surprised by a scene or comment.
“This show will surprise audiences,” Thomas says, “the show will make everyone at some point in the script go ‘Nooooo he didn’t!’”
All jokes aside, this play really does have a moving message, with Cass’s journey simply representing each of our own individual, whacky journeys to find ourselves. As Thomas perfectly summarizes, “There’s a beautiful message that comes through the comedy, as well, in terms of finding your own journey, being open to experiences and the people you meet along the way. Her journey ultimately asks the question of ‘what brings you joy?’”
Overall, it was a spectacular performance. We now have a whole year to wait before seeing what the PCA department sponsors next – and how it could possibly top this.