Storycrafter Studio’s Fantasy The Wish Maker Fails To Enchant

curtain2By Bill Hirschman

The first rule of evaluating acts of creation: Recognize that artists are putting their guts, their fears, their viscera on public display, and that courage must be respected. Secondly, recognize that, as screenwriter William Goldman once wrote, nobody sets out to make a crappy movie.

So in that spirit, acknowledge that the world premiere of The Wish Maker, written and directed by local playwright Cynthia Joyce Clay and produced by her own Storycrafters Studio, is well-intentioned and earnest in every aspect.

But that’s it.

Ham-handed, amateurish, ponderous, sluggish, the list of adjectives could go on and on both about the script and the production. It is mildly funny in some spots intentionally, but unintentionally humorous in the eye-rolling department in others.

Storycrafters is a young company that performed in Miami Beach a couple of years and moved this spring to this tiny storefront smack in the middle of a decrepit strip of shops in North Miami.

The premise, not that it matters, is drawn quite accurately from Greek mythology: The Graeae were three immortal ugly eyeless witches whom Perseus asked for help seeking out objects that would help him slay Medusa.

In this version, the blind trio (Rachel Chin, India C. Davidson and Isobel Betancourt) whine and squabble in their cave using strangled voices that sound like they are auditioning for Macbeth. They fight over who gets to use the one good eye – an oversized orb that they put on top of their heads. Unfortunately, the risible costumes look like something your mother made for Halloween when you asked to be dressed up like a Dalek from Dr. Who — the earliest low budget episodes. Fortunately, there are no production photographs to document this.

Enter a handsome spelunker who says they can be set free restored to looking like young beauties, minus their magical powers, but only for a trial period while they complete several humanitarian tasks – especially stop fighting among themselves.

So now they reappear as lovely young women living in South Beach or some such place where they make a hobby of collecting sports cars as bait for young men, some of whom they meet working out at the gym.  One, who used to be able to grant wishes, is a very profitable artist who throws paint at a canvas; the potions maker is an aspiring cook who still whips up the same grey glop she did in the cave, and a the third painfully shy sister  who could sense the approach of visitors still pines incessantly for a true love.

It takes them a long, long time to achieve those goals the mysterious man set out for them. Their setbacks are underscored by a stage manager at the back of the house rattling a metal sheet to stand in for ominous thunder.

One scene, I’m not making this up, portrays one woman magically kept in mid-air all night (actually standing on a platform) forcing her to squirm, wince and writhe for about two full minutes of stage time as the character tries to delay urinating on herself. Really.

Everybody gets what they wants by the finale, sort of, after 20 minutes of Byzantine philosophical arguing about real and imagined powers. Something in there was likely the point that Clay has been driving at, but by that time it’s difficult to care.

This idea of mythological creatures being transplanted to modern times in a meld of witty satire, droll fantasy and thought-provoking drama is not original. The great French dramatist of the 1940s through 1950s Jean Giradoux succeeded with it (read the fanciful one-act The Apollo of Bellac), although he was a genius. And, of course, there was the brilliant cinematic triumph, Xanadu with Olivia Newton John. Clay works hard to mesh the two, such as having one character refer to something she heard in a Ted Talk.

The acting, again, is quite earnest, but it starts off at a level you’d find in a rural church’s Christmas pageant as the actresses try and fail to negotiate that constipated heightened speech pattern that Americans think the Greek gods and goddesses affected back in the day. Give these actresses the benefit of the doubt – not even Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith could pull off this script. It would help if the actresses knew their lines a tad better, but rehearsal periods in South Florida are notoriously limited. Dominic Smith, who plays all the men whom the women meet, fares a bit better because he gets to play some present day parts.

But even with a better script – start by cutting it by a third – The Wish Maker is a brave attempt by dedicated theater practitioners that simply does not work.

The Wish Maker  runs through July 3 at Storycrafter Studio, 12987 West Dixie Highway, North Miami.  8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Running time is 95 minutes with one intermission. Tickets $25-35. Visit storycrafterstudio.com

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4 Responses to Storycrafter Studio’s Fantasy The Wish Maker Fails To Enchant

  1. Chaya says:

    First, I respect every individual’s opinion in regards to technical evaluations. However, I will say that I really enjoyed the play because it gave me an opportunity to use my imagination. The playwright was able to bring me to a place where love, coexistence are real. What impressed me about the play was the message regarding sacrifice, that is very necessary today. We must remember and practice in order to have a better world.

    The first act captured my attention and it made me imagine what it was about, it was very intriguing as I couldn’t figure out what it was about.

    The second act ran a bit too long and tiring but the actors performance were fantastic and passionate.

    Thank you and God bless you all.

  2. Hirschman is a member of the Carbonell panelists. Although they have a rule that Carbonell panelists are not to divulge their opinions to each other while a show is being evaluated, with this review Hirschman has done so. As a member of the Carbonell’s, posting a review before all the evaluators have had a chance to see a show unduly influences any evaluator who reads his review before seeing the show. This is unethical.

    • Bill Hirschman says:

      Just for the record: I am a Carbonell judge not a nominator. In the two-tiered system, a judge does not get to even consider a show for a Carbonell unless it is recommended by the six-member nominating panel. I had no direct discussions with any of the nominators even though I sat next to one. Further, I know most of the nominators’ integrity; they would not be swayed by a review. Many intentionally do not read reviews until after they have seen the show and made a decision about their opinion.

  3. Doug Shear says:

    The Play was funny, the actors were charming and they really put their all into their roles. I thought the costumes they wore in the beginning were hysterical. Overall, the audience really enjoyed the production. Mr. Hirschman’s review mentions that some of the humor was “unintentionally humorous in the eye-rolling department,” but I think it was all intentional, and all within the satirical and somewhat farcical tone of Play. I though it was a blast. In any case, people should attend the Play and make up their own minds.

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