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‘Wheel of Invention:’ Theatre Review (Hollywood Fringe Festival 2016)

LA-based production company AwesomeTech Industries has joined Hollywood Fringe Festival this year with a new and improved production of Wheel of Invention, a dark, dystopian comedy that gives audiences a first-hand look into the twisted fictional theme park, Weintraubsylvania, and the demented mind of its creator, Herman J. Weintraub.  Wheel of Invention invites visitors to explore Weintraubsylvania through a guided tour, painting the picture of a troubled visionary who dared to dream big, creating a disturbing theme park full of bizarre attractions with a strong, underlying theme of anti-authoritarianism.  With a stylized playbill designed to mimic a theme park brochure, a personalized tour of the park, and the chance to see several attractions, Wheel of Invention delivers a strangely unique and thought-provoking experience for theatregoers.

Having made its debut at the 2015 Los Angeles Theater Festival, Wheel of Invention was revamped by writer/director Brandon Beck and producer Beth Scorzato to feature an all-new first act which introduces viewers to the park itself and the man behind its creation.  Guided by the typically saccharine tour guide, we see several oddball attractions, including union workers who are turned into talking birds and banjo-playing bears with a penchant for criminality and moonshine.  The oddity of these attractions can be a bit off-putting and confounding, but their inexplicability lends itself well to the demented mind of Weintraub himself.  Likewise, the cast is clearly having fun with the kooky content, and their commitment to the zaniness only helps to solidify the performance.

In the second act, the show delves deeper into the mind of Weintraub as we watch Wheel of Invention, an attraction that “portrays a prototypical American family’s journey into the future and the century ahead,” according to the play’s description.  It is with this attraction that the play becomes morbidly fascinating – in what can only be described as “It’s a Small World” on acid – darkly tackling the horrific depths of humanity as it is faced with computer overlords, post-apocalyptic cannibalism, and worse.  The ensemble continues to dedicate itself to the spiraling madness, leaving this reviewer wondering if a second viewing would help to take in the reason for Weintraub’s instability and the message intended through his insanity.  While talkbacks are not common with the Fringe Festival performances, this is one show that left me clamoring to pick the brains of its creators.

If you are making your way through the Hollywood Fringe Festival circuit, Wheel of Invention will provide a darkly comedic look at humanity through a fun house mirror, and, strangely enough, it may not be too far off from where we are truly headed.  The performance will run through June 25, 2016, at the Asylum Theatre in Hollywood, CA.  Tickets are available online.

*Photo (above): Megan Duquette as “Melanie” (Photo by Matt Kamimura)

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief




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