Monday, July 08, 2002

'Wingfield' returns with rural charm

Theater review

By Jackie Demaline,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Some of you will remember Walt Wingfield (Rod Beattie), the high-powered Toronto CEO-turned-Ontario farmer. Way back in 1994, his first three adventures — made up mostly of comic misadventures — played in rep at Playhouse in the Park.

        Walt is back in episode four, Wingfield Unbound, another fond visit to a rural neighborhood where the towns have names like Larkspur, Hollyhock and Petunia.

        Don't worry if you haven't met up with Walt and his eccentric family and friends before. All the shows are self-contained with Mr. Beattie playing the entire neighborhood, more than a dozen folks, his dog Spike and even, briefly, a horse.

    Wingfield Unbound, Shelterhouse, Playhouse in the Park, Tuesday through Sunday. 421-3888.
        Unbound is another homespun evening presented in a series of “letters to the editor” of the local small town paper.

        There's the adventure of Spike and the casserole for the potluck supper, and the adventure of the ram which might just be possessed by the spirit of its cantankerous, dead former owner.

        Cattle and hens also play roles — it's a farm, after all — although in Unbound, Walt's major concern is how the history of the land and the people who have settled and worked it is vanishing without a trace.

        Which is why he embarks on a plan to salvage an abandoned mill as a living history museum. Too bad it's haunted.

        Mr. Beattie is a fine storyteller who makes good use of his voice and face (he has an intriguing way of getting his eyes to bug out) and body to draw clear sketches of the key players, including Walt's no-nonsense wife Maggie, her stuttering brother Freddy, their ancient neighbor the Squire, members of the Town Council and a whole lot more.

        Unbound has a leisurely pace, the kind just right for a relaxing vacation. By dropping one or two of the least effective entries, it could as easily be 90 minutes without intermission as the two hours with intermission that it is, but there's a lot of charm in the way so many apparently unrelated threads somehow tie together in the end.


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- 'Wingfield' returns with rural charm
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