Arts theater review

The Wild Party

The Musical Theater Guild presents Andrew Lippa’s off-Broadway gem

The Wild Party

Performed by the MIT Musical Theater Guild

Kresge Little Theater

Runs April 22-30

The Musical Theater Guild’s production of Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party began quite thematically, with an unforeseen fire drill at the Kresge Little Theater. While it only delayed the production a little, it did serve to preface the main message of the production — that a bright and flashy appearance can obscure a great underlying emptiness.

The Wild Party tells the story of socialites Queenie and Burrs, who tire of each other and hold a party to reinvigorate their self-esteems. With the arrival of their friend Kate and her new beau Black, a convoluted love-rhombus ensues where they each try to feed their egos with a mix of newfound attention and their partner’s jealousy. As the rivalry escalates, their pretenses unravel to expose nothing more than four broken individuals, with a desperate need to be loved.

It is a complex production, but one that was directed remarkably well by co-directors Chamille Lescott ’16 and Kirsten Olson ’14. The piece is relatively fast-paced throughout, with one dramatic turn following another and songs flowing almost like a stream of consciousness. Yet Lescott and Olson succeed in guiding the action around the stage so as to always draw attention to the right places.

A commendable set of leads take the piece through its twists and turns — Elisa Boles ’18 brings great texture and control to Queenie’s many challenging numbers, while David Favela ’18 commits himself fully to Burrs’ steadily boiling rage. Amma Okwara ’16 portrays Kate with a reckless abandon, while Geoff Hegg ’16 is a tender-hearted Black.

Anchoring the piece is Karen Hart ’14’s striking set — the floors and walls are painstakingly hand-painted in a fitting array of cracks that reveal bursts of color. Likewise, Paul Gallagher G’s orchestration gives the piece a strong musical foundation, infusing the complex score with an emotional depth.

However, the highlight of the evening was far and away Caroline Walsh ’17’s rendition of Old-Fashioned Love Story. Walsh is winningly charismatic, with wonderful comedic timing. But mostly, as the out and proud Madeline in search of her fairytale “lesbian love story,” she is a lighthouse of authenticity in a sea of self-denial — reveling in a level of contentment and self-satisfaction that none of the other characters will ever hope to find.