Six Points presents Anna Ziegler’s cleverly crafted play
April 30, 2023 at 10:36 p.m.
Emails are tricky. Now arguably the primary form of human communication, they’ve nevertheless left a long trail of misunderstandings in their wake. And perhaps made us a more hostile species, too, since folks often dash them off and press “send” without pausing to consider their words.
Tony Larkin as Abe and Amanda Cate Fuller as Julia Cheever in Six Points Theater’s production of “The Wanderers.” (Photo courtesy Sarah Whiting)
In Anna Ziegler’s play, “The Wanderers” — currently receiving its Twin Cities premiere in a deeply involving Six Points Theater production — the trouble with emails is evident from early on, and those electronic missives prove a driving element throughout this ceaselessly engaging tale about relationships and communication.
Featuring five strong performances under the expert direction of Miriam Monasch, Six Points’ “The Wanderers” is 105 intermission-less minutes of captivating storytelling that may leave you examining your own relationships, be they romantic, familial or otherwise.
You’re also likely to come away admiring Ziegler’s playwriting skills, for this is a very strong script with disarmingly believable interactions woven into two parallel narratives that eventually intersect. It’s quite a crafty way to tell a story, complete with twists that can cause you to re-examine what you’ve seen.
Lynda J. Dahl as Sophie and Tony Larkin as Abe in Six Points Theater’s production of “The Wanderers.”
(Photo courtesy Sarah Whiting)
In their first scene together, married novelists Abe and Sophie are talking about an email Abe has received from a renowned film actor, Julia Cheever, who professes being a fan of his work. We watch as their email correspondence (presented as dialogue) seems to become more of a daily occurrence, Abe growing more distant from Sophie as Julia becomes his chief confidante.
Their scenes alternate with those of Esther and Schmuli, who we meet on their wedding day. They’re part of an orthodox Jewish sect that largely isolates itself from mainstream American culture, and it’s clear from the start that Esther is questioning the path that’s been set before them in this arranged marriage in ways that Schmuli is not.
Through eight “chapters,” we watch as these five characters talk about parenting, life changes, rebellion and how they’ve been shaped by their upbringings. While it’s very much a conversation-driven play, the Six Points production never makes it feel overly talky. Insights and epiphanies arrive for the characters with relative frequency, the author never allowing your interest to lapse.
The eventual linchpin of the tale is Abe, who, in the hands of Tony Larkin, is equal parts charming and exasperatingly self-absorbed. He’s every inch the brainier-than-thou literary light, one who claims, “I already live the most examined life I know,” but the audience is left to determine if that’s really true.
Lea Kalisch as Esther in Six Points Theater’s production of “The Wanderers.”
(Photo courtesy Sarah Whiting)
The show’s key transformation is that of Esther. She’s the most open-hearted (and open-minded) character onstage, and Lea Kalisch makes her magnetic, never more so than in a gut-wrenching scene in which we basically watch her life explode. Avi Aharoni proves an ideal contrast as the shy and tradition-bound Schmuli, crafting a fascinating character who tries to project a sense of control, but is perpetually dripping with anxious sweat.
More understated are the two women between whom Abe is torn, Lynda J. Dahl’s Sophie and Amanda Cate Fuller’s Julia, both of whom are lent somewhat guarded tones quite different from the three heart-on-sleeve characters with whom they share the stage. But the cast’s chemistry is invariably engaging, helping make “The Wanderers” the kind of show you want to email a friend about afterward.
Six Points Theater’s ‘The Wanderers’
When: Through May 14
Where: Highland Park Community Center, 1978 Ford Parkway, St. Paul
Tickets: $40-$15, available at 651-647-4315 or sixpointstheater.org
Capsule: Three relationships are insightfully examined in this cleverly crafted play.