The Oz Monologues

ensemble theatre · italo productions · Ages 10+ · family friendly · world premiere · United States of America

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Review by RANDELL WAKEFIELD
July 22, 2018

What I liked

It was rewarding to revisit a very known property in a more mature context that still managed fidelity to the source material. The writer’s did their research in mining from the original Oz novels while providing a few surprises to re-frame some of what we’ve always known.

The actors were well cast and emote and pantomime effectively behind the often-impressive makeup and costuming. True to the tenants of literature; the wicked are often the most arresting in fiction and the Witch sisters are no exception here as they are given the richest material and most cogent motivations-some that should have always engendered sympathy on paper (avenging a sister’s murder, anyone?) It’s difficult not to recall ‘Wicked’ since it’s success on the page and stage have been largely credited to the influx of literature committed to exploring perspectives of the previously maligned or misunderstood. It feels especially fitting in this case and it mostly worked.

The sets were imaginatively done, with a few standouts being the forest of the Tin Woodsman and the Witch’s Castle due to their degree of immersion. There is a very impressive scene in which- after the Tin-Man delivers his tale of woe- ‘rusts’ in place as a result of the back-drop generated rain- the actor frozen in place for an agonizingly and impressively long while as his former paramour (whom I won’t spoil) delivers monologue about their intertwined pasts in the foreground. It perfectly synergies the elements at play as staging, performance, and visual effect sustain an illusion while highlighting the human-scaled emotions within this fantasy world. Other highlights include an anarchist-Flying Monkey, a vulnerable Lion, a bruised Tin-Man and Glinda the Witch of the South played as a spaced-out Southern Belle with a hint of shade.

What I didn't like

A few of the sets could use a little work or had distracting elements due to how stationary they were (I’m thinking mainly of the crows in the scarecrows field)
There are a few moments where -even within the established format-there is not quite enough happening on stage. The scene in which Oz speaks to Dorothy plays a bit awkwardly since the ‘monologue’ is from an automated source, and Dorothy doesn’t seem to have enough to ‘act’ with or against. This is one instance in which a little interaction may have added something.

The writing could be a little uneven depending on which character was delivering their monologue.

My overall impression

A modestly-scaled yet ambitious production with it’s share of peaks and valleys, fitting for an exploration and expansion of the OZ mythos. True to namesake, the reached-for objective in tone is more meditative than musical, as Dorothy, Scarecrow, and an assortment of Oz’s most famous and infamous denizens expound upon, challenge, or deepen our understanding of their public and personal histories through monologue. As there are no current shortages of jaunty excursions down the Yellow Brick Road, I for one appreciated the starker and more introspective treatment of this universe and these characters. Recommended!

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