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‘Wishing Well’ worth tossing coins into

Dink O’Neal

Producing a world premiere automatically raises the bar of

expectation for both an author’s work as well as the interpretation

of said script.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

stage space.


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