When you walk into the Echo Theatre for Accident, West Virginia, don’t let the taxidermic moose-head puppet on the wall make you regret your decision and walk out. ---
Even when the moose-head puppet opens the show with a mini monologue, don’t walk out. The show is well worth enduring the moose that stares stupidly into your soul.
Accident, West Virginia is the latest production at the Echo Theatre, Provo’s newest community theater. Centered on the motley assortments of guests, characters’ stories intertwine during their weekend stay at Happiest Accident Inn.
The ensemble cast is really what makes this show delightful. Their unflinching dedication to their characters not only makes the performances believable but also provides the comedic fodder for the show. Take, for instance, Cedric, played by Christopher Sherwood Davis. Cedric is the mental patient of Dr. Merryweather, played by Jeff Blake, author of the play and founder of the Echo Theatre. Cedric has multiple-personality disorder, with each personality having a different accent and mannerisms. Davis switches between each one fluidly without resorting to being ridiculous or over-the-top. Watching his personalities fight amongst each other is delightful and offers many of the laughs of the show.
The only disappointment of the show comes from Taylor, played by Julianna Boulter. As a character, Taylor is one-dimensional and falls flat compared to the other performances in the ensemble. Granted, Boulter may be the victim of poor writing, but her tough-female-cop-who-is-in-love-with-her-partner shtick gets old real quick.
But, the best performances of the entire show by far come from Hailey Nebeker and Travis Reynolds, playing wife and husband Chloe and Bert, respectively. After a mental collapse, Chloe is now an extreme hippie environmentalist with anarchist tendencies. Bert, her long-suffering husband, puts up with her psychotic episodes and her insistence on everything being vegan.
Again, both of these characters are played with complete dedication and control. The funniest moment of the show is when mild-mannered, soft-spoken Bert finally cracks and screams at Chloe to “shut [her] facehole!” The cast had to pause for a few moments so their lines could be heard over the roar of the audience.
Accident, West Virginia is hilarious ensemble effort with some real talent for a community theater and definitely worth checking out – even with the taxidermic moose-head puppet
Accident, West Virginia @ Echo Theatre, 145 N. University Ave., Provo, $7 - $10, through June 16.