Producing a world premiere automatically raises the bar of
expectation for both an author’s work as well as the interpretation
of said script.
With crisply paced performances and well-executed technical
virtuosity, director Maria Gobetti and her ensemble easily clear that
bar as they present playwright Jon Klein’s latest offbeat comedy,
“Wishing Well,” playing at The Victory Theatre Center.
Chock full of smart yet sometimes overly devised wit, Klein’s take
on dysfunctional family secrets plays out as a skewed sitcom cross
between “On Golden Pond” and an episode of MTV’s “The Osbournes.”
Insurance adjustor Callie Quayle, played with obvious enthusiasm
by Kathleen Bailey, returns to her childhood home at the behest of
her widowed mother. A brisk two hours later, after one hurricane, two
jaw-dropping revelations, some fairly predictable subplot tie-ins and
a whole coin purse full of change dropped on the play’s title
character, Callie rediscovers the joy of not always trying to predict
what life will bring next.
Bailey’s flustered befuddlement with her mother and much younger
sister, Cindy, works well despite Klein’s somewhat cliched choice to
have her deliver a trio of philosophically based expositional
monologues directly to the audience. Remaining cast members range
from serviceable to downright scrumptious.
Tracey Stone’s more mature appearance makes buying into her as the
spoiled, flirty, 20-year-old Cindy somewhat of a stretch, but her
scene work evens out nicely as the show progresses. As the now
grown-up neighbor boy from across the road, Tai Bennett’s calm and
reassuring demeanor anchors the otherwise turbulent proceedings.
But the night’s honors respectively belong to Judy Jean Berns and
Joe O’Connor as Callie’s acerbic mother and her everyman
meteorologist husband, Wilmington, N.C.'s version of Fritz Coleman.
These two provide textbook examples of comedic timing and thoroughly
fleshed out characterizations.
Scenic designer Gary Randall’s multifaceted combination of the
homestead’s sitting room and porch features a weathered color scheme
and forced perspective skillfully offsetting the theater’s limited