Review By Regan Baker
Stories of fantasy and adventure, helpless princesses and heroic kings, mythical creatures and fairytales were pretty much a staple in the Baker household as I was growing up. Being swept away in the romanticism of a fantasy realm where everyone gets a happy ending was highly desirable and the stories that grew from that concept were always so enchanting. The genre is certainly nothing new, and on this ridiculous play, creators Adam Hasa and Jordan Schulte write, “We’ve seen this story before: the prince rescues the princess. The knight slays the dragon. The hobbit destroys the ring. The ogre bathes to Smash Mouth - But what about the fine, hardworking townsfolk/non-playable characters who make up the background for the heroes in their epic quests?”
“The Play About Wizards and Music in a Village Somewhere” is that story. The B-Side of a cassette tape or the side quest that you might complete later if you have the time. The story of the background payers in the mythical Villhedgetowne who have their own disastrous life problems to deal with. It’s not the story of the heroic wizards, but of their somewhat useless apprentices.
While the play may not focus on the hero characters or the princes and princesses of this mythical realm, the story arc is written in a very similar structure. We still have our “hero” character (and we use that term lightly) who wants to win the heart of the most popular elf in the village, while also embarking on a quest to brew a potion to cure his grandma.. who is also a chicken.. because why not. Similarly, there are still side quests to complete, hurdles to overcome and an arch-nemesis to defeat in battle.. but not the cool kind of battle with swords and dying, no no – this is a battle of lute V recorder in a music competition. In trying to create a story that differs from the norm, we’re pretty much still left with the exact same tale but with slightly more abstract characters on slightly less epic adventures.
If it isn’t somewhat obvious already, I was not a fan of tonight’s performance, but that statement comes with a huge asterisk attached to it. I was absolutely NOT the target market for the play. I’m not a gamer, I’ve never played D’n’D, I’ve never roll-played anything, and hell – I don’t even know what ‘NPC’’ stands for! So while I may have struggled through the 110-minute show everyone around me seemed to be really into it! Where I was cringing, the rest of the audience was laughing. Where I chuckled, the rest of the room lay silent. I was totally backwards – it was bizarre.
To break the show down a little further, the story itself actually wasn’t that bad. The concept of following the B story in a mythical universe and the everyday struggles that ordinary people go through is a unique angle that I don’t think I have really seen before. The characters’ motivations, attitudes and conflicts were well written by Hasa and Schulte, and brought to life by the talented twelve-strong cast that really encapsulated their roles. The sets and costumes, while simple, were better than expected for an independent production and suited the Anywhere Festival kind of vibe. Having been to such a vast array of productions, from the best-of-the-best on Broadway all the way down to independent one-woman shows, I had low expectations of the production values tonight, but credit to Stage, Costume and Production Designer Cherie Moss for elevating the experience on what I can only image would have been an incredibly tight budget.
The show was mostly well-written, and while I didn’t understand half of the witty references and one-liners the audience around me seemed to really vibe with the humour. My main point of conjecture with the writing was that certain scenes felt like they were written around a specific punch-line that didn’t really elevate or progress the story. I’m all for a great joke, but scenes shouldn’t be created around them, even if it’s the greatest thing you have ever written. If you can’t make it fit the story – cut it. I don’t remember a lot from film school, but one thing I do remember is that every line of dialogue and every paragraph of prose should keep the story moving forward, and tonight there were just a few too many moments that felt drawn out in order to hit a punchline.
“The Play About Wizards and Music in a Village Somewhere” may not have been my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be yours – Personally, I’m just a coffee drinker. If you are into fantasy adventures, Dungeons and Dragons, MMORPG’s or understand what an ‘NPC’ is, then this is quite possibly a performance you will love!