On the Verge is about three female Victorian explorers traveling through time and space. As they—Beth A. Cooper as straight-laced Fanny, Heather Hawkins as excitable Mary, and Kate Witt as fearless leader Alexandra—hack through dense jungle brush with umbrellas, their witty dialogue becomes the primary vehicle of exploration. With Stoppard-like crackle, the ladies relate past adventures (introducing croquet to savages who want to use shrunken heads for balls, fending off "spiders the size of flapjacks") and discuss the pros and cons of pants. "A petticoat is the only thing for (protection against) punji sticks," Alexandra says. Mary retorts: "Trousers are the future," hastily adding that of course she's not advocating them "in polite society."

Along the way, the explorers meet different men, all played by Frank Lawler, who introduce anachronisms to the ladies, who giddily slap them around like beach balls—on the first mention of the word "dirigible," they're like children given a new toy. The performances are sublime in their charm, timing, and enthusiasm.

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The ladies press on into the future and rhapsodize on its junk language (Airmail! Pot stickers!) as "fallout from the future" (Cell phones! Yo-yos!) descends from the ceiling on strings. Unfortunately, they get stuck in 1955, where the script dies a quick death and rots onstage for 45 minutes. The explorers are seduced by men, art, and gambling, and the language is enslaved to an unwanted plot—something about feminism and whether it's possible to be both a suburban woman in love and a pith-helmeted explorer. The ending musters some of that early magic, as the ladies "flash and yearn for adventures beyond the Jacuzzi," but it's too late for what began as a smart, pitch-perfect spectacle. The first act is such a wonder of space-time skulduggery that everything falls flat when the play tries to develop an unnecessary point.

editor@thestranger.com