Wildflower, a new play – and I use the term loosely – by Lila Rose Kaplan, which has recently opened at 2econd Stage Theatre UPTOWN at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre could use a double dose of Miracle-Gro to help it along. It is merely an outline for what could become an interesting drama. It’s not put together very well. It’s melodramatic and not very funny. Characters are underdeveloped. Plot, hard to believe. And what’s with the ending?
In a series of quick scenes, rather situations with some stock characters, we are taken into the lives of generic, overprotective mother, Erica – who has left her husband, a botanist with her genius son Randolph who has “social problems” in tow to Colorado where there is a Festival of Wildflowers. She knows no one there but within minutes of arriving at an inn run by Mitchell, a sympathetic ex-drag queen who likes to cook – she finds a room and a job in a local shop run by an intelligent beyond her years and on the prowl for sexual enlightenment teenager, Astor – or is it Aster? It’s her grandmother’s shop but grandmother never makes an appearance. The final member of the cast is hunky, unhappy red neck forest ranger James with an intense attitude who seems not to be very busy in his tower but on the prowl for some hanky panky with the new mom in town. He too is successful within minutes.
The director, Giovanna Sardelli has the characters all over the set which represents the inn (inside and out) the shop with the Wildflower Hot Line and other locales including a beautiful midnight meadow meeting for a “first kiss”. Can’t say any more than that or else I’ll reveal the not very convincing ending – which verges on the incredible.
I found it difficult to accept Nadia Bowers as the mother. Jake O’Connor fares much better as her son who is called upon simultaneously to be a dunce and a genius – although we never see any apparent genius genes. What genius doesn’t know about sex? He talks to a plant that he has planted from seeds he has brought from his dad, whom he misses and reads from a thick book about Botany and how certain plants can kill. He doesn’t know quite what to make of Astor or what to do with her. As the hot to trot teen Astor, Renee Felice Smith, is precocious and daring and vulnerable. She’s fine. Quincy Dunn-Baker as James the Ranger is on the verge of caricature but that’s how it’s written. He does a nice job and looks the part. As the ex-drag queen, Ron Cephas Jones handles his difficult role of trying to explain about kissing and sex to Randolph with just the right amount of empathy and control.
There is some interesting music between the many short scenes (situations) and we get to hear Sarah Vaughn on the radio and Mitchell gets to strut with a feather boa and make soup with what seems to be a single stalk of celery. Miracle-Gro where are you when we need you?
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