"I don't want a scene," claims dutiful Brooklyn wife Cass as she abruptly leaves husband Kip in the opening scene of David Lindsay-Abaire's kicky, uproarious "Wonder of the World."
Yeah, right: Liberated Cass quickly becomes a blissfully brazen adventurer, with a to-do list she's put off during her stultifying marriage -- from the willful ("Find a sidekick") to the eccentric ("Become friends with a clown") to the extreme ("Go parachuting"). By play's end she's checked off several items and assembled a motley crew of mixed nuts in her Niagara Falls hotel room for a scene to end all scenes.
Whiplashing deftly from sick jokes to searching drama, playwright Lindsay-Abaire ("Fuddy Meers," "Kimberly Akimbo") rubs together cruelty and deformity, death and dysfunction, till they strike comic sparks. The breezy, even sunny tone of his dark comedies resembles Christopher Durang, minus the rancor.
In West Coast Ensemble's crackling new local premiere, director Richard Israel hits just the right light, bright tone, and he has an ideal cast executing the play's matter-of-fact mayhem across Will Pellegrini's witty, postcard-painted set.
As the fearless but not quite unfettered Cass, Madelynn Fattibene has a lovely, tentative smile and perfectly endearing deadpan. Cass may be clueless, but her real challenge, she comes to realize, is to give up looking for clues.
Indeed, that's essentially everyone's journey here. A bitter drunk (the hilariously dour Jan Sheldrick), a daft tour-boat captain (Robert Gantzos), an odd-jobbing older couple (Larry Lederman and Margaret Silbar), the nerdily needy Kip (Stef Tovar) and a series of outsized supporting characters (the brilliant Angeles Vara) -- all cling to private signifiers that prove inadequate or mistaken, even destructive.
True epiphanies may elude these hapless seekers. But "Wonder of the World" is itself a minor comic epiphany -- cracked, crisp and strangely sweet.
'Wonder of the World'
Where: West Coast Ensemble, 522 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood
When: Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.
Ends: April 11
Contact: (323) 525-0022
Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes