Review of Wayward at First Run Theatre

    First Run Theatre’s latest offering is the premiere of Wayward. The well-crafted play by Eric Berg opens with a prologue spoken by the main character, Carol Kwiatkowski, in the mid-1980s. She begins telling a story to someone to whom she is obviously very close.

    Though Carol has rehearsed the story in her mind many times, telling it still isn’t easy. In 1961, she became pregnant out of wedlock. To keep her condition secret, her family sent her from her small hometown in Wisconsin to a home for wayward girls in Kansas City.

    The action begins with 22-year-old Carol’s arrival of the at the home. She puts up unwavering resistance when a young nun, Sister Anne, tries to get Carol to fill out the admission forms, including one that relinquishes parental rights to her child. Carol insists these formalities are unnecessary because her child’s father, Ronnie, will be coming for her.

    After Sister Anne gives up, her superior, Sister Elizabeth, takes a firmer hand with Carol, with no better results. Carol is defiant throughout her stay at the home. She does not, for example, abide by the home’s rule against divulging or asking others about personal information that could be used for blackmail. Residents are known either by a number based on their due date, given to them when they arrive, or by a nickname of their own choosing.

    Carol rebels again when she is asked to take down a “letter from the Ranch” dictated to the residents by Sister Elizabeth. The letter’s purpose is to maintain the illusion that the residents are taking care of horses at a ranch. Carol’s letter does nothing of the sort. After Sister Anne reads it aloud, Carol must start over.

    The other residents’ nicknames are Country Girl, Maggie, Mayflower, and Jersey Girl. The most engaging parts of the play are the discussions among the five expecting women about their common predicament. In a particularly lively scene, residents provide a running comment as they watch the televised tour of the White House given by Jacqueline Kennedy on February 14, 1962.

    Before Carol leaves, the script rounds out the other residents’ stories. She finishes her own story in a final monologue. What happens to her is surprising but consistent with the portrayal of Carol throughout the play.

    Under Phil Wright’s sympathetic direction, the First Run cast brings the characters to life in solid performances by Lexy Witcher as Carol Kwiatkowski, Jade Cash as Sister Anne, Mckenna Stroud as Country Girl, Monica Allen as Sister Elizabeth, Camryn Ruhl as Maggie, Amie Bossi as Jersey Girl, Sarah Vallo as Mayflower, and Camryn Ruhl as Carol’s sister, Barbara.

    The action moves fluently because Brad Slavik’s scenic design smartly divides the stage into separate areas for the different settings needed within the home. The helpful lighting and sound were designed by Michelle Zielinski and Jenn Ciavarella respectively.

    Wayward concluded its run with performance at 8 p.m. on August 18 and 18 and 2 p.m. on August 20 at the Kranzberg Black Box Theatre, 501 Grand Boulevard.

    —Gerry Kowarsky

    Photo by David Hawley
    From the left, Jade Cash as Sister Anne, Lexy Witcher as Carol Kwiatkowski, Monica Allen as Sister Elizabeth, and Sarah Vallo as Mayflower in