Confusing, Dated, Mundane: 3 Wishes

Gerald van Wilgen wrote his play 3 Wishes in response to E.L. James’ novel Fifty Shades of Gray. But whether Wilgen intended it as satire or homage (or something else) still escapes me after seeing B. Someday’s staging. 

Like Fifty Shades, 3 Wishes deals with a sexual awakening, in this case, of Cornella Jennings (Michelle Pauls). But unlike James’ 22-year old paramour, Wilgen gives us an uppity middle-aged, sexually repressed executive, circa 1958. She’s followed everywhere by Voce (Sarah Braun), who represents her inner lust. When Voce causes Cornella to inadvertently grope a plumber (Matt Shell), he demands three wishes, each a bit more erotically escalating, from G, to PG to PG-13.

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Michelle Pauls as Cornella Jennings in 3 Wishes

Themes of misogyny (via Cornella’s boss) and gender disparity in the workplace cloud this  fantasy, at times making 3 Wishes feel like a history piece culled from 50’s home-ec education reels. The dated language and lame double entendres add to the historical distance, whether referring to a toilet as the “crapper” or having Cornella respond to a plumber’s question about her leaky sink with “oh, yes, my wet spot.”

 Wilgen also throws in an element of mystery about the new owner of Cornella’s company, but the surprise is spoiled in the program (four characters, all on stage from the first scene, who else is it going to be?).

 If I hadn’t read Fifty Shades, little of Wilgen’s work would have made sense as spoof or serious commentary. Director Stan Heleva mines humor in Braun’s performance and Heather Cole’s choreography (did I mention the two lip-syncing dance numbers?), but he does little else to untangle this new work’s aspirations.

--Jim Rutter 

3 Wishes. Presented by B. Someday Productions at Walking Fish Theatre, 2509 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia. Runs September 21-23 at 7PM. Tickets: $10 215-427-9255

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