There’s a lot going on in Lasso of Truth.
There’s the story of a character inspired by William Marston, the man who invented Wonder Woman (and also invented a lie detector), negotiating a three-way relationship with his wife and a younger woman. Then there’s the story of a young woman, in the 1990s, developing a flirtatious friendship with a comic book dealer who has a copy of Wonder Woman’s debut issue. Then there’s the story of Gloria Steinem, seen in video reenactments discussing her thoughts about Wonder Woman in the early 1970s.
Did I mention the interludes with disembodied whispering voices?
The inventor’s story would have been more than enough for this play by Carson Kreitzer, now being staged at the Playwrights’ Center by Workhaus Collective — an acclaimed playwrights’ group that’s just announced its amicable dissolution — in association with Walking Shadow Theatre Company. Leah Cooper directs this ambitious production, which achieves an impressive fusion of onstage action and onscreen illustrations but struggles to sustain interest in its latter-day story thread.
The Marston character, identified simply as “the Inventor” (Stephen Yoakam), is a psychologist whose open-minded wife (Annie Enneking) goes along with his plan to find a third person (Meghan Kreidler) to invite into their relationship — and into literal ropes of bondage they take turns fastening about one another. The play cuts between that story and the budding romance, several decades later, involving “the Girl” (McKenna Kelly-Eiding) and “the Guy” (John Riedlinger), who bond over their shared love of the character Marston created.
The most interesting — and successful — aspect of the production is the integration of projections by Davey T. Steinman, which use comic-style titles along with illustrations by Jacob Stoltz to narrate the action as it unfolds. Thanks to witty writing and precise timing, the technique works wonderfully to frame the stories and highlight the resonance between the Wonder Woman comic and the characters’ lives.
The play would have been much more involving if Kreitzer had focused on developing the characters of the inventor and his partners, caught up in a deliciously melodramatic quest to push intimate boundaries. The other couple’s story is far less compelling, as are the videos in which Enneking and Kreidler play Steinem and an assistant underneath a cheesy filter applied to make them resemble cartoon animations.
Wonder Woman has vaulted back into the spotlight lately, with a new incarnation appearing on movie screens (unfortunately, it’s in the abysmal Batman v Superman) and Jill Lepore’s nonfiction work, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, making the rounds of book clubs. This theatrical investigation of the character’s unusual genesis is intriguing, but it didn’t need a contemporary subplot to remind us of the enduring relevance of this powerful woman whose real-life origin story is much more fascinating than her fictional one.
IF YOU GO:
Lasso of Truth
The Playwright's Center
2301 Franklin Ave. E. Minneapolis
Through May 1; 612-332-7481