The Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz
Adapted from L. Frank Baum by Phillip C. Klapperich. Dir. Tommy Rapley. With Molly Brennan, Cliff Chamberlain, Paige Hoffman, Jake Minton, Stephen Taylor. The House Theatre at the Viaduct.
If you thought you'd never again feel compelled to cheer at the defeat of Oz's Wicked Witch of the West, or, for that matter, get teary over the demise of a stuffed animal, this is your Wizard. All preconceptions of Baum's story and its subsequent crystallization as someplace that side of the rainbow swirl away as swiftly as a house in a tornado. Klapperich and Rapley not only throw off the sentimental albatross of one of pop culture's most immovable icons, but skew it to a logically dark place and serve it up in a bounty of moody music (composed by Kevin O'Donnell), sound (designed by Michael Griggs), and complicated adult emotion. (Read: get a sitter for this one.)
Boldly venturing into some bravura asides—including a sensuous tango, an abstract art installation and other devices too tasty to give away—Klapperich's plucky adaptation emphasizes just that: Bravery is acting in spite of, not out of, fear. Rapley's virtuoso direction and the vigorously expressive cast heft the emotional weight to match the spectacle. As expected, Dorothy (Hoffman), who is known throughout Oz as the Buffylike "Witch-slayer," is accompanied by the grinningly dumb Scarecrow (Taylor); the Cowardly Lion (Minton), whose leg is humiliatingly humped by Toto; and Chamberlain as a stoic Tin Woodsman who croons a heartbreaking (despite his lack of a ticker), swoony acoustic love song a la John Mayer. Once the Witch is melted away here, so too is the myth.—Megan Powell