Infinite Possibilities 


Oct. 11–27, 2019

Ward Theatre Company, Durham

Some of the strongest productions in Ward Theatre Company’s four-year run in Durham have been the original stage works that artistic director Wendy Ward has devised with present and former members of her noted Meisner-based acting studio. A 2016 revival of I Wish You a Boat placed audiences aboard a doomed transatlantic steamship at the end of the nineteenth century. The premiere of Revival in 2017 scrutinized the mysterious motions of the spirit—and, sometimes, its absence—among a rural congregation at a mid-century summer country tent meeting.

The considerable theatrical alchemy in Ward’s latest original, Infinite Possibilities, marks a welcome return to that form. At first, this ninety-minute production seems like an easy send-up of pricey, privileged new-age wellness resorts like Esalen, as smarmy hosts Diane (a sparkling Hilary Barry) and Simon (Geoff Bowen) tout naked yoga, an “ancient Mesquite ceremony,” and colonic hydrotherapy in cameo videos.

That sense only intensifies as Jim (an avuncular Guy Beretich), a fatuous last-minute pinch-hitter for a presumably more qualified therapist, fumbles through a workshop on relationships with a sextet of self-absorbed, upper-class misfits. The laughs are abundant as dubious listening exercises go completely off the rails before interruptions, inter-group antagonisms, and Jim’s wife, Cynthia (a prim Sharon Bishop) further sabotage efforts at supposedly authentic communication.

But via mid-show monologues, these characters deepen from their initially risible, self-absorbed takes. The most beatific of the lot, Amber (Jennifer Romeo), discloses the mountain of bad karma she has to work through from her former job, and Keith (Nicholas Todaro) pulls no punches in relating the events that placed him in mandatory anger management. Even Cynthia and Jim discard long-held defenses in candid self-assessments, and as Elizabeth, Amy Paquette finds the source of her character’s poorly hidden grief.

Ward’s humanizing of comic figures who are clearly still in need of healing is well within the realm of improvisational filmmakers Christopher Guest and Robert Altman. We’re heartened to hear she’s considering a revival of this production for spring.

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