BOTTOM LINE: Film noir meets the wild west as a self-aware, non-linear farce.
Ruby Wilder utilizes the above-mentioned themes, combining several genres into a cohesive package. A feat no doubt, it achieves success in its innovating storytelling and engaging plot. It's a thriller and it's also a comedy. It's artsy and it's also mainstream. Truth be told, I'm not sure how they managed this coherence.
From the minute the Narrator, well dressed in a khaki suit, steps on stage and introduces the characters, it's clear the audience has no choice but to take the ride being offered. The fourth wall is broken and the scene is set - although it's apparent this is a dark tale, the audience will no doubt feel completely comfortable jumping on board. The Narrator (Derek Czaplewski) seems trustworthy and you don't really have a choice but to believe what he says. As he interacts with the characters and facilitates the plot development, you wish the characters would follow his advice, too.
Ruby Wilder (Julie Cowden) seeks revenge from the serial killer who kidnapped her and her sister Junebug (Jennifer Incorvaia) some four years prior. In fact, she's been waiting for her chance for justice ever since. Ruby finds herself in a bar with the killer, Ozzie (Josh Odor), and brings him back to a hotel. But two revenge fantasies are at work, as Ozzie has his own intentions.
Interspersed with scenes from the kidnapping and the fall-out between Ruby and her fiance Harper (Neal Starbird), Ruby Wilder uses a non-linear technique to bring the story to life. This is incredibly effective, as the high-stakes plot makes the audience want to learn more, and this method of discovery is both active and thought-provoking. This is a smart and thoughtful script. It's clear that playwright Brooke Allen wrote this play to be enjoyed by an audience - that consideration will be appreciated, whether consciously or not.
The acting is effective but not quite exceptional; this might be because the actors are playing to their stereotypes and don't have the chance to give anything more layered. However, Czaplewski gives a great comedic performance as the Narrator. His timing and deadpan delivery are spot-on.
It would be great to see Ruby Wilder performed in a space that allows for a more interesting set design and lighting plot. The story is like a movie in many ways (think Kill Bill), and to have the visual stimulation to back up the action would be welcomed. But as it stands and for a festival, this show does a fantastic job telling an engaging tale that keeps the audience guessing.
(Ruby Wilder plays at the Robert Moss Theatre, 440 Lafayette Street, 3rd Floor, between Astor Place and East 4th Street, through August 18th. Remaining performances are Saturday 8/14 at 4:45pm, Sunday 8/15 at 12pm and Wednesday 8/18 at 9pm. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door, and are available at FringeNYC.com, by calling 866.468.7619, or in person at FringeCENTRAL, located at 1 East 8th Street at 5th Avenue. There is NO LATE SEATING for Fringe NYC shows.)