Fefu and her Friends, Maria Irene Fornes' 1977 play that examines the fraught nature of female friendship in 1935, was perhaps most notable for its roving staging. Originally produced in a SoHo loft, the second act of the three-act production required audiences to split up and move throughout the performance spaces, watching simultaneous scenes play out between pairs of characters. Although Fornes later revised the script to permit staging in more traditional venues, Fefu and her Friends has long served as a source of inspiration for innovative productions. Clove Galilee and Jenny Rogers of Trick Saddle have recently adapted the play into their own quasi-environmental Wickets. With the time period transposed from the mid 1930's to the early 1970's, the characters from society ladies to stewardesses, and the locale from a country home to a passenger airplane, Wickets combines Fornes' original text with additional source material to create a performance piece that is at once retro and contemporary. In the spirit of Fornes, much of the pleasure of Wickets comes from the care taken with its scenic design. High quality production values that include curved white walls, narrow aisles, and partitioned sections of chairs make sitting inside set designer Rogers' cleanly constructed craft about as close to a commercial airplane as you can get without first going through security checkpoints. Beyond the plane's porthole windows, light designer Burke Brown effectively creates the hues of a changing skyscape. Yet for all the delight derived from the quirky realism of Wickets' set, the aircraft contains elements of the surreal; how many passenger planes have floors lined with AstroTurf? Its consciously idiosyncratic aesthetic is indicative of the entire production, which balances a kitschy celebration of sisterhood with an examination of the turmoil that incited feminism's second wave.
The characters of Fefu and her Friends belong to the ladies who lunch set; converting the characters into working class women in a feminized service profession adds interesting friction to their relationships with other women while making the audience implicitly responsible for their servitude. It also works toward undoing the notion of feminism as belonging to the providence of upper middle class white ladies, a smart choice that would be further enhanced by a more diverse cast.
The fun that Wickets has with its stewardess ensemble makes itself apparent before the opening lines of the play: upon arriving at the 3LD Art and Technology center, audience members are asked to form a line, "boarding passes" in hand, so that the stewardesses can check them off clip-boarded passenger lists. The strong cast, led by the superb Lee Eddy as a dignified yet gruff Fefu, forms a seamlessly supportive ensemble, including standouts Jessica Jolly, Elizabeth Wakehouse, and Christianna Nelson.
Over the course of the play, the stewardesses confide in one another their deep-seated fears as they engage in both cattiness and comradery. Curiously, a number of cast members employ inconsistent accents that are as distracting as they are unneeded. Like a long airline flight, Wickets isn’t always smooth. When it soars, it’s a thrill to be part of it.