By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
Max (Alec Silverblatt) and Whitney (Erika Cuenca) are lost deep in their own imaginary worlds. They are both “volunteering” in a clinical trial experimenting with a new drug that will allegedly cure them of their schizophrenic illusions in Johnna Adams’ “World Builders.”
Walt Disney once said, “Fantasy and reality often overlap.” Maybe he had schizophrenic dreams. He was certainly a first class world builder. He created elaborate stories about imaginary people, not unlike Whitney. She’s created a fantasy world that would make J. R. R. Tolkien and George R. R. Martin proud.
Side note: Why do the most famous fantasy writers have double R initials? Is that a thing?
Whitney’s world(s) is a mash up between “Star Wars,” “Lord of the Rings” and “The Little Mermaid.” If you’re wondering why she didn’t just write it all down and become the next J.K. Rowling, it’s because her mother destroyed reams of paper, notes, maps and other ephemera describing her fantasy world.
The pills take effect, and their fantasies fade. But Whitney wants to preserve her imaginary stories. So she strikes up a conversation with Max. She believes if she tells someone the story of her imaginary worlds, they won’t fade away into oblivion. Eventually, they both share information about their worlds.P.S. Max is in a much darker place.
Eventually, the friendship grows into love, but what happens when the trial ends?
Adams explores some deep themes here. Is love an illusion? What is real and what isn’t? Don’t we all live in our own fantasy worlds to some extent or another?
The most shocking thing is that “World Builders” is a comedy. It’s laugh out loud funny.
Cuenca is adorable as Whitney. She bubbles with enthusiasm explaining the characters in her elaborate fictitious worlds. Cuenca’s Whitney is fun, but fragile, like a glass rose.
Silberblatt astonishes here. His Max is the more obvious of the two schizophrenics. He has facial tics, odd quirks and herky-jerky movements. Max is the kind of person you don’t want to sit next to on a bus.
Director Linda Haston does a good job letting her actors deeply explore their characters.
Adrienne Fischer’s set is a work of art. The actors are surrounded by stark white walls with splashes of Crayola colors.
In “World Builders,” you’re not really laughing at people with deep psychotic issues, you’re laughing with them. It will get under your skin, in a deep, dark way, but you’ll be laughing as you go.
“World Builders” runs through May 18 at the Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main Street, Carnegie, PA 15106. For more information, click here.