‘Wanting Where’ mimes return to childhood

For a play in which only one word is spoken during its entire one-hour run time, Wanting Where, the senior honors project of Liza Curtiss ’10 conveyed a surprising amount of poignancy. I was initially quite skeptical of its premise, expecting an overly pretentious and obscure result: The six actors in the play, five of whom switched between multiple roles, were decked out in full mime makeup and remained completely mute throughout. However, while the specific details of Wanting Where were often difficult to decipher, the core emotions and motivations of the characters were easily accessible to the audience throughout. A story of lost innocence told through the eyes of a child, set in a twisted, magical world of mimes, Wanting Where was both a beautiful experience and a work of art.

A return to the unquestioning acceptance of our seemingly bizarre experiences as children, its story was in essence a straightforward one: Boy meets girl, boy and girl discover they both have a calling card from the same mysterious man, boy and girl go on a journey to the big bad city and in the process, lose their innocence. However, this familiar plotline is expressed in such a pure, abstract and artful manner that it seems entirely fresh. Clearly the actors in Wanting Where faced the challenge of depicting this nonsensical yet coherent play with absolutely no words. On the whole they succeeded. Though their actions were sometimes exaggerated to the point of discomfort, this tendency seemed to gel with the slapstick comedy aspects present throughout.

Liza Curtiss ’10 played the main character, a girl dressed in a frivolous, lacy white dress with a ribbon in her hair, practically dripping with naïveté. Her cutesy facial expressions, adorable red lips and exaggerated actions depicted a character whose distinctly childlike actions were often quite humorous. Ali Mitchell ’12, Sarah Freymiller ’13 and Aspen Jordan ’11 played multiple characters each throughout the show, occasionally switching quickly enough to cause momentary confusion in the audience. Armed with face-cramping smiles and frowns, the actresses provided a human backdrop for the play as well as much of its side humor. In a memorable chase scene, Freymiller and Jordan both ran into poles and then swatted at imaginary cartoon-like stars away from their heads.

On the other hand, the male roles of the cast played characters that dramatically opposed themselves: One was naïve and simplistic, the other complicated and jaded. Much of the secrecy and drama of the play revolved around the debonair, mysterious man played by Evan Maltby ’11. His smug and direct gaze into the audience both surprised and unnerved with its connective intensity, while at the same time inspiring a feeling of loathing. Eben Hoffer ’10 played an immature street ruffian who found himself unexpectedly paired up with Curtiss’ character. Hoffer skillfully embodied the selfish, but at times surprisingly sweet and generous, young boy.

Though the actors followed a storyline with no words impressively, it was the scenery that tied the entire play together and sealed its dreamlike quality. The background sets ranged from a makeshift tent to a projection of the city streets. At one point, the play transformed into an old-fashioned movie set. Sepia tones shadowed the stage as Curtiss and Hoffer rode an elevator, unwittingly taking part in a social experiment. The finale ended with a gently ironic drift of snow and business cards raining down upon Curtiss as she gracefully rode a swing.

The sound in the play was also fantastic and quite creative. Ranging from guitar plucking to ethereal voices to animal noises made by the very cast themselves, the sound brought an additional layer of complexity to Wanting Where. While not the inaccessible music one would typically expect of an extremely abstract play, it nonetheless seemed to meld perfectly into the texture of the story.

Combining film, dance, movement and gestures, Wanting Where was more of a multifaceted artistic experience than a play. Despite its initially intimidating method, once I gave myself over to a childlike sense of magic and wonder and stopped trying to analyze with the usual standards of “normalcy,” Wanting Where impressed me as a theatrical work with beauty and depth.