Carson Kreitzer’s “Lasso of Truth,” which the Unicorn Theatre is staging as part of a “rolling world premiere,” had the potential to be something special.
That it ultimately doesn’t succeed is unfortunate, because this is a play I was rooting for. Kreitzer works from a promising premise to explore a quirky (and/or kinky) corner of pop culture but the diffuse execution makes for a frustrating two hours of theater-watching.
This is a multi-media production, which basically means that the rather thin dramatic narrative threads are overwhelmed by tech-heavy visuals. The show employs multiple projections and video sequences, some of which on opening night appeared to hit a glitch or two.
Kreitzer’s point of departure is psychologist William Moulton Marston, who developed a systolic blood pressure test that led to the invention of the lie detector. But Marston also created the comic-book heroine Wonder Woman, who presumably was inspired by the smart women he lived with for years — his wife and his research assistant.
The story of their three-way marriage, which produced children by two mothers, seems sufficiently interesting to support a full-length play, especially when you take into account the interest in bondage the three of them apparently shared. But Kreitzer breaks up the main narrative with a separate plotline about a young woman in the 1990s searching for a rare original edition of a “Wonder Woman” comic, which leads to a relationship with a comic-book dealer.
The result is a piece that never generates much dramatic momentum. Kreitzer breaks the action up into dozens of short scene plus scripted moments for those all-important projections of text and images in the style of comic-book panels.
The Unicorn production, directed by Johnny Wolfe, brings together a talented cast. Indeed, the actors can’t be faulted. Martin Buchanan, Carla Noack and Vanessa Severo bring formidable skill sets to the stage as the psycho-sexual Marston triad (identified in the script as the Inventor, the Wife and the Amazon). And Laura Jacobs as the Girl and Jamie Dufault as Guy bring a lot of charm, charisma and sharp comic timing to the stage.
These actors have considerable comedic abilities and there are moments when Kreitzer’s frequently absurd sense of humor hits a bull’s eye. But the humor isn’t sustained and Kreitzer’s message, made clear early in the play, never goes anywhere.
The point of all this, apparently, is to project the fictionalized version of Marston and the women in his life as being wildly progressive and ahead of their time, while the Girl and Guy storyline is designed to show how Wonder Woman became a role model for little girls and prepared them to be real-world feminists.
That’s a valid idea but the play in its current form can’t really support two acts.
The technical aspects of the show are impressive. Jacob Stoltz’s comic-book panels are fun to look at. Ryan Zirngibl’s scenic design consists of a series of wall-sized interlocking panels which provide the surface area necessary for the projections. Colleen Shea’s lighting design makes a big contribution. The video sequences, credited to designer Matt Mott, don’t come off well. The colors are faded and at times look out of focus.
To reach Robert Trussell, call 816-234-4765 or send email to email@example.com.
“Lasso of Truth” runs through Feb. 15 at the Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main St. Call 816-541-7529 or go to www.unicorntheatre.org.