Women more concepts than characters in 'On the Verge'

There's so much artistry and imagination involved in Nevada Conservatory Theatre's "On the Verge" that I felt guilty for finding it so tedious.

Author Eric Overmyer, a television writer and producer, gives us three late 1800s women on some kind of exploration. We soon learn it's not just places they're traveling through, but time periods. They keep dropping in at various points in history. (At one turn, a box containing an "I Like Ike" button falls from the sky.) They absorb information differently, with each representing the past, present or future.

Director Todd Espeland comes up with many exciting visual compositions. You enjoy the devices he uses to suggest the details of the journey. Lighting designer Glenn DiNicola's alluringly smoky atmosphere is perfectly suited for surreal adventure. And Nick Spraul's sound treats us to a realistic you-are-there physical environment that you can just about touch.

But Espeland fails to bring the three women to life. They're concepts rather than characters. And they're so one-note shrill that I kept wishing they'd leave me alone.

Espeland blocks the three-quarters round production as if he were frustrated the audience wasn't on just one side. Sit in the "wrong" place and you'll miss major moments due to backs, sides and badly placed furniture. (During three scenes, I wanted to stand and move a bar that was blocking my view. It wasn't being used and could easily have been placed elsewhere.)

The reason to see the show is Dakota Baker as eight creatures the women encounter. His face always sits behind a mask, yet this major talent communicates widely different personalities, from good ol' boy exuberance to babbling Chinese madam. How he's able to use posture, movement, attitude and voice to make specific these eight characters that are generically written is something those of us interested in acting would love to know.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.