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Hollywood Fringe Review: Where Within

In Where Within, the latest effort from the producer’s of last year’s Valley of Light, feels like a Millennial hybrid of Midsummer Night’s Dream and Peter Pan, in which siblings get lost in a mystical forest, where they encounter Lost Boys (and Girls). The musical-fantasy features good songs and a nice magical flavor, but the central drama is not all it could be.

Brother and sister Cameron (Daniel Kim) and Harper (Vanessa Andrick) are on a long road trip, arguing about what music to play, when a mishap strands them in the woods. In the confusion, they end up separated. Harper encounters a singular spirit warden while Cameron happens upon Archie (ákos jónás), a spritely character with little memory of his past, who introduces Cam to his will-o’-the-wisp companions. The two groups wander the woods for a while before finally reuniting the siblings…

Where Within has a couple of notable strengths. The production does a good job portraying its mystical setting with a handful of simple set pieces (a clever touch is that scene changes are indicated by the will-o’-the-wisps playfully rearranging the papier-mâché trees and rocks into different configurations). The songs have a charming folksy-Celtic sound befitting the subject matter; sometimes they venture into more challenging territory with tricky syncopated rhythms and clever counterpoint melodies. Vocal performances are not always as strong as they should be, but overall the cast acquits themselves quite well.

The weakness lies in the story, which admittedly is meant to be simple and metaphorical. Still, the characterizations of Cameron and Harper are not established beyond the fact that they are bickering (which is hardly remarkable on a long, boring drive). Consequently, their character arcs are vague: we know little about where they start, so we have little concept of how they have changed by the end.

The idea seems to be that life with the will-o’-the-wisps sounds like an eternity of fun, but there is a downside. The implication of Archie’s failing memory is that he has lost touch with who he used to be, and the same will happen to Cameron if he remains. Also, the will-o’-the-wisps fear someone they call The Ferrymen, who takes them away from the forest. Long before the characters figure it out, the audience realizes that the ominous Ferryman is actually the friendly warden Harper met, who just wants help the will-o’-the-wisps escape the forest (they are sort of trapped there even though they do not feel trapped because they are having so much fun).

Thus, the main conflict-threat turns out to be a simple misunderstanding, and everything works out at the end pretty easily – perhaps too easily. The audience more or less has to assume that Cameron and Harper have learned something from their experience, but the only evidence we see is that they agree on what song to play as they resume their journey. Where Within is supposed to be light and fanciful, but this conclusion is a little bit too wispy and insubstantial to be fully satisfying.

Where Within
2.5

Rating Scale

1 – Poor
2 – Mediocre
3 – G00d
4 – Great
5 – Excellent

We are giving Where Within our rarely used 2.5-star review, which we reserve for productions that do not quite work for us but are too good to dismiss as mediocre. You can think of it as a designation of “Fair,” but it’s more like “there was so much good we wanted to like it, but there was some niggling thing that bothered us but might not bother you.”

Where Within continues at Hollywood Fringe Festival with performances on June 23 at 2pm and June 29 at 6:30pm. The venue is the Zephyr Theatre at 7456 Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Get more information here.

Cast: Daniel Kim, Vanessa Andrick, Ákos Jónás, Grace Albano, Pragya Bhatt, Nations, Gen Hercules, Amelia Hoffman, Jeremiah Taylor & Arjun Lakshman.

Credits: Directed by Grace Wilkerson, assistant directed by El Belilty,  choreographed by Arjun Kochhar, music directed by Natalia-Rose Giovanni, assistant music directed and composed/lyrics by Haley Adams, written and produced by Casey Fleming, and produced by Grayson Abdalla and Charleston Harvey. The cast includes Daniel Kim, Vanessa Andrick, Ákos Jónás, Grace Albano, Pragya Bhatt, Nations, Gen Hercules, Amelia Hoffman, Jeremiah Taylor & Arjun Lakshman. The team also includes Adam Hassan & Amberlynn Chase
as stage managers, Sophia Fijman & Sun Jin as costume designers, Pannam Dhoat & Addie Lillard as scenic designers, Fernando Gonzalez as lighting designer, Ari Hyman as sound designer, Grace Robinson & Charleston Harvey as Co-EDIA Coordinators, Isadora Swann as the Dramaturg, and Naomi Melville, Jason Pollak, & Michaela Skaribas as Fables and Rumors Producers.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.