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Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012

Wolfe, DeWolff Make 'Natalie Ryan' a Good Time

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Last year, comedy writers Vince Figueroa and Beth Lewinski wrote and directed Natalie Ryan and the Brain Thieves, a sci-fi adventure that starred young actress Anna Wolfe as an ancient time traveler with the personality of a sweet girl from the mid-20th century.

Wolfe returns in equally sweet form as the girl in the red coat with a pocket watch that allows her to travel through time in Natalie Ryan and the Rogue Traveler. The script matches the mood and tone of a big-budget sci-fi action film without all the gratuitous explosions. Natalie Ryan relies on drama and witty dialogue to draw in the audience. No flashy visuals here.

In sci-fi movies, unimpressive visuals usually accompany exceptionally bad acting. That's not the case at all in this production. The visuals may not be particularly memorable, but the performances are well executed. As in last year's production, Wolfe manages some depth beneath the surface sweetness of her character.

A well-directed ensemble joins Wolfe in keeping the action interesting even when the specifics of the plot seem a bit murky and byzantine. Rob Maass is smooth and calculating as the villain. Maass' slick performance overcomes the sci-fi villain superficiality. Libby Amato is stylishly sexy as the bounty hunter employed by Maass' character. Grace DeWolff is irresistibly charming as Natalie Ryan's sharp-spoken companion. The relationship between DeWolff's time-cop character and Wolfe's time traveler is cleverly written, and the actresses have the chemistry to make it work. There's a lot going on in the script, but the big reason to see this show is the clever dynamic between Wolfe and DeWolff.

Natalie Ryan and the Rogue Traveler
runs through Aug. 26 at the Alchemist Theatre, 2569 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. For ticket reservations, visit www.alchemisttheatre.com.