Something in the roar of Niagara Falls attracts wayward souls.
Three pairs of them converge on the edge of the Niagara Escarpment in David Lindsay-Abaire’s comedy “Wonder of The World,” which opened Thursday in a Buffalo Laboratory Theatre production in Shea’s 710 Theatre.
And there they stay, holed up in a cheap motel room, hashing out miniature dramas and struggling to patch up their fractured marriages. After much ado about less than nothing, the play’s two discombobulated protagonists realize their best option may be to slip into a plastic barrel and chuck themselves into the churning rapids.
The longer this play plods along, the more attractive that option seems.
Unlike most who have plunged over the Horseshoe Falls in barrels, this production does not survive the rickety construction of Lindsay-Abaire’s script or the wildly overinflated performances director Taylor Doherty has coaxed from his cast.
The show follows Cass Harris (Anne Roaldi Boucher) as she runs away from her “deviant” husband Kip (Sean Murphy). On her way to Niagara, she falls in with blithely suicidal alcoholic Lois (Diane Di Bernardo) and together they play out their twin psychodramas with help from a supporting cast of weirdos.
It seems necessary to mention here that “Wonder of the World” is a comedy, though it’s difficult to understand how it came from the same gifted playwright who gave us the complex “Rabbit Hole” and “Fuddy Meers.”
Doherty has smothered this production in so many layers of camp that it cannot escape from its own labored style. It features video projections made to look like 8mm film, a ‘60s-era Brazilian soundtrack and the overall flavor of a bad 1980s sitcom. Everything about it is over-exaggerated, from its technicolor costumes and wigs to its overblown situations and drag-show-level humor.
Given the source material, a camp extravaganza might have seemed the only logical approach. But without no emotional center of gravity and cartoonish performances, camp that tries this hard for humor turns out to be merely cloying. The result is a production that ends up dead in the water.
“Wonder of the World”
1.5 stars (Out of four)
Comedy presented by Buffalo Laboratory Theatre in Shea’s 710 Theatre, 710 Main St., through Oct. 2. Tickets are $36.50 to $66.50. Info: sheas.org/710Main or 847-1410.