Review: WALTER CRONKITE IS DEAD at Union Avenue Christian Church

The West End Players Guild Production is Funny and Heartwarming

By: Dec. 04, 2023
Review: WALTER CRONKITE IS DEAD at Union Avenue Christian Church

A line of severe thunderstorm has completely paralyzed air travel along the Eastern seaboard. Travelers are stranded in the airports in all of the cities on the East coast. Joe Calarco’s play, Walter Cronkite IS DEAD, takes us inside an airport lounge in the overcrowded Washington Regan National Airport. Margaret, a stranded traveler is sitting alone trying to enjoy her carafe of red wine when a southern whirling dervish named Patty loudly enters the bar having a conversation on her mobile phone that the entire airport can hear. Patty spies an empty chair at Margaret’s table and coerces her into an invitation to sit with her at the table. Finally, the quiet and reserved Margaret relents and offers the chair to the talkative, but likeable, Patty. Walter Cronkite IS DEAD examines what happens when we listen, more than talk, move beyond our differences, and we seek to understand others.

Set in September of 2010, the liberal and conservative differences these women disagree on seems mild relative to the constant bickering of the left and right in the United States today. Calarco’s script is dated, but the message of his play still resonates even if the playwright’s divisive subject matter is insignificant by today’s standards. What makes the play work is the comedic caricature that he created when he wrote the character of Patty. Patty is a loud, unapologetic southern conservative with a carry-on packed with one-liners. Margaret, the liberal-ish Easterner, is there to be the straight man for Patty’s jokes and nonsense conversation.

The comedic powerhouse, Leslie Wobbe, bursts onto the stage and delivers plenty of laughs with Patty’s ridiculous analogies and similes. Wobbe gives Patty a big heart and a friendly demeanor that makes her personable and irresistible. She is annoying enough that Margaret finally feels compelled to offer her a seat at her table, but is doesn’t take long before Wobbe’s Patty wins over Margaret and their conversation ensues.

Kate Durbin’s Margaret is an unfriendly traveler who doesn’t want to be interrupted, much less share her table and engage in a spirited conversation with an overzealous woman. Durbin’s expressions, eye rolls, and body language clearly convey that she is annoyed by, and disinterested in engaging with Patty. It is when Margaret starts to thaw and open up to Patty, that the script’s heart begins to beat. Durbin’s measured portrayal transitions Margaret from an unsympathetic character to one who evokes audience empathy.

West End Player Guild's production of Walter Cronkite HAS DIED is an enjoyable piece of theatre thanks to the performances of its two leading ladies. Wobbe and Durbin’s on-stage chemistry takes a dated story, makes it interesting and funny, and delivers the playwright’s intended message. The funny and heartwarming Walter Cronkite IS DEAD plays at the Union Avenue Christian Church through December 10th. Click the link below for tickets.