John Wuchte’s 2019 Hollywood Fringe show Scarlett Fever, a physical theatre exploration of the legendary search for Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind,” was certainly the highlight of that last pre-pandemic Fringe for me. So, I was very anxious to see this year’s entry, Housewife ’52. I am pleased to say that it lived up to my expectations.
Housewife ’52 is less linear and more experiential than the earlier show which allows the piece to deepen and strike more emotional chords. The four housewives (Dagney Kerr, Danika Masi, Quincey Lou Huerter, and Olivia Echegaray) seem to have bought the post-war family-in-the-suburbs propaganda hook, line, and sinker as they scrub and starch and iron their husband’s endless stock of white button-down shirts.
What is fascinating is how Wuchte, who directs, choreographs, and is responsible for the text and lyrics, manages to expose the cracks in this blacklist era façade with such enviable economy. Infidelity, Misogyny, Identity Issues, Marital Discord, and Widowhood all make brief but telling appearances in this 75-minute production.
Clearly, Wuchte and his excellent cast have worked long hours to create a vocabulary of movement that reveals as much as the text. My memories of Scarlett Fever involve sinuous lines and Busby Berkeley style circling. The choreography for Housewife ’52 tends more to be squared off, directly facing the audience, with a good deal of movement performed on chairs. This combination of regimentation and confinement draw the audience into viscerally experiencing the stifling spirit of the time.
The Housewives may be the titular stars of the show, but the Husbands (Daniel Amerman, Charlie Manoukian, and Alexander Aguirre) are equally important. As men, they have fewer reasons to fight the strictures of their place in society, but we catch glimpses of their dashed hopes and disappointments.
Michael Teoli collaborated with Wuchte on the hauntingly percussive score for the show which features songs with titles like, “Everyday Coming Back to Me,” and “You Should Taster Pot Roast.” Teloi is also responsible for the snappy arrangements played live by a four-member band.
Housewife ’52 was deservedly chosen to be a part of the Fringe’s repeat performances, but, as I missed it during the initial run, their final performance may have occurred by time you see this review. But something this stylish and inventive will, hopefully, find a life in a regular run in the city. If it does, don’t miss it and add Wuchte and his Kick Boom Theater to your must-see list.
The Broadwater Mainstage June 5 – July 29, 2022