BWW Review: THE WILD WOMEN OF WINEDALE at CATTheatre Generates Sitcom-style Laughs
The comedy playwriting team of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten has been successful in the Richmond area-both CATTheatre and Swift Creek Mill are frequent producers of their work-and CAT has a new one: "The Wild Women of Winedale," featuring a primary cast of three related characters.
Fanny (widowed) and Willa (divorced) are sisters, and Jef is the widow of their late brother. Fanny (Rebekah Spence) and Willa (Pamela Bradley) live in Winedale, Virginia, near Richmond; Fanny works at a place called The Virginia Museum, and Willa is a nurse. Jef (Annie Zannetti) comes to visit and help out while an elderly aunt is upstairs dying.
The house in which the dying is going on is charmingly cluttered (the wonderful set was designed by Joe Bly). The three women spar verbally and toss off jokes in the customary Jones-Hope-Wooten fashion (the playwrights have written for many television shows, including "The Golden Girls"). But embedded in the plot is the fact that Fanny is producing a documentary for the museum, and in the documentary various women are interviewed about major turning points in their lives. We get to see some of those "interviews," presented as monologues, with most of the "interviewees" played by Kathy Northrop Parker. And what she pulls off makes the rest of the jokey proceedings pale by comparison. It's the same cornball comedy, but Northrop Parker brings her characters to life and delivers her lines with loads of conviction, heart and pizzazz.
The rest of the script has some laughs, but they're limp and predictable (the audience members in front of me spent a full minute predicting one of the jokes out loud). The three lead actresses pour lots of energy into their overbaked performances (do exaggerated air kisses still deserve a laugh?), with good comic timing and pacing of reveals courtesy of director Amy Berlin. Assistant stage manager Audrey Sparrow does a nice little cameo.
With good lighting by Alleigh Scantling, fine sound design by Greg Sparrow and fun props by Jim Scott, the team does what can be done with the material. Jen Krisch's costume designs, which are supposed to add to the comedy, are sometimes particularly unattractive.
Presumably we are supposed to think about the turning points facing Fanny, Willa and Jef, but nothing written for that trio is half as convincing as the pieces Northrop Parker gives us. Wish there had been more of that.
"The Wild Women of Winedale" at CATTheatre, 319 N. Wilkinson Rd., through December 21
Tickets: $25 (RVAOS members $20, students $15)
Info: cattheatre.com or (804) 262-9760
Photo credit: Daryll Morgan Studios