LA Theater Review: WONDERLUST (Theatre of Note)

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by Kat Michels on September 3, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles


Buried somewhere in the convoluted twists, turns and ramblings of playwright Cody Henderson’s Wonderlust lives a great story waiting to be told.  Actually, you could say it has been told: think Mamet’s Oleanna slammed together with Lawrence and Lee’s Inherit the Wind – except instead of a college professor, we have a high school science teacher, and instead of the student laying down accusations of impropriety, those charges are levied by her uncle, a Congressman.  Throw in a nosy fellow teacher for comic relief, which worked admirably, aside from the scenes where he was just too pathetic to be funny.

Wonderlust  by Cody Henderson at Theatre of Note – Los Angeles Theater ReviewAre you trying to figure out how Inherit the Wind would play any part in this plot?  Let me explain…no, on second thought, let me sum up (an explanation would take too long):

  1. Sharon, the student (Elia Saldaña) fails a pulse monitoring assignment in her teacher Andrew’s class for his new curriculum topic: love (stay with me here).
  2. Andrew (Tristan James Butler) loans her his heart monitor so Sharon can redo the assignment (which he has because of a recent hospital stay; you see, after his wife left him, he literally suffered from a broken heart).
  3. Sharon’s mom freaks out from the special attention given to her, but Sharon gets a spark of life and wants to continue the lesson.
  4. Ralph (Carl J. Johnson), the nosy colleague, laments that, instead of eating the pizza he orders and watching movies during his classes, the students in Andrew’s love class are more interested in making out and giving hand jobs.
  5. The Congressman (Brad C. Light) comes to visit Andrew to pitch a new charter school bill he’s trying to push through that includes God in the public school classroom.
  6. When Andrew isn’t interested, the Congressman reveals that he’s actually Sharon’s uncle and is there because they believe he has been acting inappropriately toward Sharon and that his new curriculum on love is unacceptable and he has to stop.
  7. Andrew stops teaching love, but Sharon continues and starts her own experiment.
  8. Ralph laments some more.
  9. Sharon continues with experiment.
  10. Andrew gets fired.
  11. Andrew presents to Sharon, the Congressman, and Ralph the final data of Sharon’s experiment, which proves that instead of being dead inside, Sharon is actually full of love.
  12. The Congressman gets really excited because this means that Andrew has been teaching God and faith and will be the perfect poster child for his new charter school initiative, which clearly means there was no misconduct toward Sharon.
  13. Andrew realizes the Congressman’s intent and says that he was teaching science not God, effectively damning himself to face charges of misconduct toward Sharon, which will probably end his teaching career.

Wonderlust  by Cody Henderson at Theatre of Note – Los Angeles Theater ReviewBy the way, that’s the quick summation.  It’s a long play, and a great deal of time is spent on circuitous conversations (which could further the plot along more efficiently if condensed to a third of their current length).  However, the climax, a showdown between the Congressman and Andrew, builds to a peak only to fizzle into nothing.  By the end of their argument, I was so fed up with them that I literally wanted to punch them in the face for wasting my time (I mean the characters, not the actors; although the playwright…hmm).

My frustration wasn’t simply because both characters were being pig-headed and stubborn, but more from the fact that there wasn’t any sort of negotiation in their argument.  There were no compromises or resolutions suggested by anyone present, just statements of what each side would do.  And then they moved on. Sharon, a fairly willful young woman, never once stood up for herself or for Andrew.  And why are Andrew’s actions not only acceptable but downright laudable if he is teaching God, yet damning and incendiary if he’s teaching science?  There you have the most interesting and thought-provoking (but unexplored) question, which might have made a much more entertaining and stimulating evening than watching Ralph lament about nobody eating his pizza.

kat @

photos by Darrett Sanders

scheduled to end on October 1
for tickets, visit or call 323.856.8611

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