The beautiful, bullet-stopping, boots-and-bustier wearing cartoon character never actually appears in Carson Kreitzer’s new play, now making its world premiere in a smart, sexy production at the Marin Theatre Company.
But she exerts a powerful influence over the five characters who do – particularly William Moulton Marston, the quixotic real-life lawyer, psychologist, inventor and artist who created Wonder Woman in 1941.
As directed by Jasson Minadakis, the production is a well-integrated blend of historical drama and contemporary comedy. Marston (played with focused intensity by Nicholas Rose), whose inventions included the first lie detector, introduces the play’s central triangle – a love affair between himself, his devoted Wife (an exquisitely contained Jessa Brie Moreno) and the young research assistant (a coolly daring Liz Sklar as the Amazon) who comes to live with them.
Their romance is deep and complicated. All three are into bondage, both women bear Marston’s children, and they all live together openly throughout the 1930s and 40s.
The other half of the story takes place in the 1990s, as a young woman (Lauren English as The Girl) gets involved with a collector of rare comics (John Riedlinger as The Guy.) He loves Wonder Woman as much as she does, and claims to have the valuable first edition she covets.
English delivers much of the play’s humor, giving voice to third-wave feminists’ uneasy relationship with Wonder Woman – a character who was stronger than any man, yet never appeared “tired or irritated or divorced.”
Minadakis’ staging balances the levity with the tension of the bondage scenes, making good use of Annie Smart’s fluid set and Jim French’s atmospheric lighting. Graphics by Jacob Stoltz and videos by Kwame Braun show iconic cartoon images and clips of Gloria Steinem, who put Wonder Woman on the cover of an early issue of Ms. Magazine.
Kreitzer has a keen ear for dialogue, and her themes of truth and power, love and betrayal, art and artifice slice through the production like Wonder Woman’s legendary lasso (sound effects by Cliff Caruthers are bracingly incisive.)
If the playwright’s female characters emerge with greater clarity than the men, that seems fitting for this feminist tale. Marston, for all his kinks, remains oddly one-dimensional by evening’s end – remarkable, to be sure, but, like his greatest creation, never fully human.
Lasso of Truth
Presented by Marin Theatre Company
Where: 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; closes March 16
Tickets: $37 to $58
Contact: (415) 388-5208, www.marintheatre.org