As the night blankets the sky with darkness, save for a few pinpricks of light coming from the stars, the hoots and hollers only get louder. The tinkling of jingly bracelets and ceaseless clicking of lighters saturate the air, interrupted by the louder sounds of breaking glass now and then.
It’s quite paradoxical that what is usually considered one of the most happening times in history to party is known by its official title of the Prohibition era. Yet from Boardwalk Empire, to Mia Farrow and Robert Redford’s take on The Great Gatsby, it’s one of the eras that is most often portrayed in contemporary performances.
This is where In Your Face Entertainment’s The Wild Party comes in. Based on Joseph Moncure March’s 1928 poem of the same name, the show takes a no-door-barred look into what happens when two vaudeville performers (Queenie, a showgirl, and Burrs, a clown) invite a bunch of their friends over for a night of cocktails, sex and coke (not the kind that comes out of a vending machine, for the record), and things take a downward turn to the unexpected.
It is, as choreographer and cast member Nadia Verrucci explained, “the perfect balance of a great storyline and really interesting characters for the actors to play, and the relative simplicity of one set and one costume per character.”
“Plus,” she added, “the music has a jazz, vaudeville-inspired ’20s sound and that was a huge draw. LaChiusa’s music is pretty complicated with some crazy harmonies, so it sounds amazing when it’s done well.”
Complementing the music, which is set to be performed by a five-piece band, are the dance numbers. As anybody who has seen the Charleston being danced (and if you haven’t, do yourself a favour and YouTube it), it’s like being transported to another era.
Adding a few swing moves here and there, including the infamous Foxtrot, The Wild Party is set to re-create that magic, but with a spin.
“I didn’t want to fill the few dance numbers we have with repetitive moves just to stay true to the era, so I mixed in a bit of ’20s with whatever ideas came to me while I was listening to the music,” said Verrucci. “That’s pretty much how I choreograph everything. I just listen to the song over and over and a picture of what I want forms in my head.”
Though not all cast members had previous dancing experience, Verrucci assured “the cast has been working really hard to discover their inner Mikhail Baryshnikov!” What was harder, she shared, was finding fitting apparel for them to wear.
“There’s definitely nothing out there in the stores that’s ’20s style, so we ended up borrowing some stuff from Centaur, Dawson and the Segal Centre, and I topped it off with some creative additions from Value Village.”
MainLine Theatre proved a fitting choice when searching for a performance space, as it contributes to the atmosphere of the playâ€”in more than one way.
“It’s pretty intimate, and it’s important for the audience to feel like they’re a part of the party, or at least across the street peeking into our party from their own apartment,” said Verrucci. “And every good party needs drinks, and at MainLine you can bring your drinks into the theatreâ€”people love that.”
Portraying characters with such an apparent dichotomy of glamour and tragedy, it’s valid to wonder what the reigning “it” couple of the Prohibition era, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, would think of this show.
“I would think they would see a lot of themselves and their relationships with others in our crazy cast of characters […] their lives weren’t exactly carefree,” said Verrucci. “The exact same kind of love-hate relationships and behind the mask dramas are going on in The Wild Party, and the drugs, alcohol and loose attitude toward sex didn’t really help matters much. Â Although it makes for a fun show!”
The Wild Party runs at MainLine Theatre (3997 St. Laurent) Nov. 2-5 and Nov. 9-12 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $23. For more information, check out www.mainlinetheatre.ca.