Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul
Carson Kreitzer must have been thus inspired and the result is Lasso of Truth, her marvelous play now receiving a fine production by Workhaus Collective in collaboration with Walking Shadow Theatre Company. Kreitzer was not only moved to transmit this trove of information about a truly fascinating manalbeit with characters names changed and some license taken with the factsbut to draw upon Marston's vision and create a play that unspools in the manner of a comic book. The result is thought provoking, revealing, and highly entertaining.
Lasso of Truth veers in time between two narratives. The primary story stretches across the 1930s and 1940sand concerns the inventor's work, his affinity for strong women, a marriage that evolved into a loving ménage a trois, and the inspiration that led him to invent Wonder Woman. The secondary narrative takes place in just one day, set in the 1990s: a girl in pursuit of a first edition of Wonder Woman volume one and a guy who runs a comic book shop and happens to own that very item, meet, negotiate, and expound on the importance of Wonder Woman in the arc of their lives.
Scene changes on the stage often occur by rapidly sliding panels that reveal a new scene as the previous scene is concealedfunctioning much like stage-managed comic book panels. Comic book-style renderings of the characters appear on three screens above the stage, using the perspective of comic book art to create close ups and heighten emotions. Sometimes these are snarky in tone, sometimes utterly sincerejust as in comic books. There are also a few short films projected enacting Gloria Steinem's efforts to put Wonder Woman on the cover of the very first issue of Ms. Magazine in 1972played tongue in cheek, while also underscoring the author's theme.
This is quite a varied collection of ingredients for one play, and director Leah Cooper manages to maintain an internal logic in the piece so that each newly revealed element actually makes sense. We always know just where to look, just who to listen to, and how each scene connects to the whole.
The cast could not be better. Stephen Yoakam may be a tad old for William Marston, who died at age 53 and was 20 years younger than that in the play's early scenes, but never mind, Yoakam instills Marston with the perfect tone of earnest pomposity, of a man determined to live without compromise, and unwilling to settle for less than he can envision. Annie Enneking as the Wife starts out seeming prim and sensible, but gradually unleashes her mastery of power, administered with kindness and fidelity, but never given to weakness. Meghan Kreidler is the Amazon, whose strength radiates from her self-contained independence, driven by a history of submission. She always seems to know exactly what she is doing, and why she is doing it. As the Girl and Boy, McKenna Kelly-Eiding and John Riedlinger are a great match, she a strong, assertive woman, he a self-effacing and gentle mannered young man.
The design elements are fairly simple, with modest furnishings to suggest each setting, and a single costume for each character, suitable for their respective temperaments as well as the historical period. The lighting design works neatly with the revealed scenes behind the sliding panels, and also is used to heighten or defuse tension.
The play's title refers to the lariat carried by Wonder Woman which, when wrapped around a villain, forces them to speak the truth. It also is a reference to the polygraph straps that measure blood pressure, as well as to the ropes that were an integral part of the shared intimacy between Marston, his wife (called Hannah in the play), and his assistant (called Lily in the play, though referred to in the program as The Amazon). These characters speak of bondage and submission as a means to shed the burden of acting through aggression, which aligns with Marston's published theories on masculinity. Their logic may not be compelling, but it certainly prompts a response.
What a gathering of modes, messages, and social history! There is enough going on to keep even Wonder Woman on her booted toes. Society's mores are put under the looking glass, expectations placed on men and women are called into question, and the inherent value of truth above all else is expounded. Lasso of Truth is a cavalcade of ideas and images, a mash-up of the zany and the profound, escapism and soul-searching, troubling and affirming, and worth every intriguing minute.
Workhaus Collective has announced that, after ten years and twenty-five productions, Lasso of Truth is to be their final show. This valued incubator of new work will be greatly missed. All the more reason to catch their work while you can.
Lasso of Truth, a production of Workhaus Collective in association with Walking Shadow Theatre Company, continues through May 1, 2016, at The Playwright's Center, 2301 E. Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis. Tickets for all performances: $25.00 or pay what you can. For tickets go to www.workhauscollective.org.
Writer: Caron Kreitzer; Director: Leah Cooper; Set Design: Erica Zaffarano; Costume Design: Annie Cady; Lighting Designer: Michael P. Kittel; Sound Designer: Dan Dukich; Props Design: Sarah Holmberg; Projection Design: Davey T. Steinman; Illustrations: Jacob Stoltz; Filming/Editing: Daniel Benoit; Stage Manager: Mawrgyn Roper; Assistant Director: Molly Chase; Assistant Stage Manager: Mitch Swanson
Cast: Annie Enneking (The Wife), McKenna Kelly-Eiding (The Girl), Meghan Kreidler (The Amazon), John Riedlinger (The Guy), Stephen Yoakam (The Inventor).