It is very rare that a theatre piece is able to overcome negative first reactions, but amazingly, Mirabilia is one such show. Presented as the inaugural production of Eclectic Mayhem Productions, this original fairy tale told largely in mime doesn’t seem like much on the surface. The intended audience is unclear, the sparse bits of text are clunky and disparate, and every instance of prop use seems laborious. And yet, by the end, the entire audience is engrossed in the whimsical nature of the story and the production’s weaknesses are largely forgotten.
A cast of six players adopt various roles as they tell the story of KC Quartermain and AJ McCloud—two unusual friends with vastly different views on life. KC (played with genuine honesty by Rebecca Rose Vassay) is a homebody who loves her street, and AJ (brought to life by an energetic Erica Smith) is a wanderer who doesn’t like to stay in one place for too long. After a flood separates them, the two set out to find one another. Along the way, they encounter myriad fantastical things including a magical bridge keeper, an enchanted garden of transformation, and a tiny town stuck in time.
The world of Mirabilia is extraordinarily well-imagined—each new adventure KC and AJ encounter is inventive and completely original. Too often, modern fairy tales steal from the hefty library of what’s been done and merely try to re-invent an ancient story. The writing team of Vassy and Smith (who also happen to be playing the main characters) have created a new tale that doesn’t feel tired or overworked. Disregarding one disappointing hiccup when two characters become the overalled minions from the movie Despicable Me, the escapades of KC, AJ, and friends are playful and engaging.
by Rebecca Rose Vassy and Erica Smith
at Fort Fringe – Redrum
612 L Street NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
However, what this show lacks is polish. Enormous specificity is required in order to succeed with a story that operates almost entirely in mime. Take Jonathan Wurzel for example: He enchants the crowd with his elegant gloved gestures as The Blue Woman in the ocean, but when he becomes the street magician, the audience is distracted by awkward, extraneous movements. Melissa Schick evokes a great deal of sympathy as the beautiful Lonely Statue, but as soon as she begins to move, the spell is broken and the audience sees the actor again. Schick deserves high praise, however, for her impressive routine with the illuminated magic portal (really just an ingenious use of a light-up hula hoop) which creates one of the most visually stirring moments in the piece.
Eclectic Mayhem Productions is a new group and unfortunately, it shows. As a company, actors need to have more confidence in their characters and streamline their movements. The playwrights must determine the show’s target audience in order to create a more coherent foundation.
If Mirabilia is meant for adults, the storyline needs to have a bit more edge and fewer predictable twists; if the show is meant for children, the out of place mature references can be replaced by a more pervasive sense of innocent wonder and playfulness. With considerably more rehearsal time, a more extensive production budget, and some substantive reworking of the script, Mirabilia could be a noteworthy show. But regrettably, it’s not there yet.