Stage Door Review

Wingfield Lost & Found

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

✭✭✭✭✩

by Dan Needles, directed by Douglas Beattie
Mirvish Productions, Panasonic Theatre, Toronto
January 13-30, 2011;

Douglas Beattie Theatrical Productions Ltd., Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia

August 17-27, 2022

Wingfield Lost & Found is the seventh and one of the best of the ever-popular Wingfield series.  Dan Needles’ plays started in 1985 as satires of the life of Bay Street stockbroker Walt Wingfield, who thinks he can escape the complexities of life in the city by starting a farm in the country only to find that country life has complexities all its own.  Yet, with each instalment the series has grown in scope so that events on Wingfield’s farm and in the surrounding Persephone Township have come to reflect global concerns.

As usual it is impossible to know whether to marvel more at the quality of Needles’ writing, the precision of Douglas Beattie’s direction or the phenomenal acting ability of Rob Beattie, who plays all the parts.  The number of parts seems to grow with each play so that here Beattie has at least 20, male and female, including an infant, a dog and a guinea hen.  To keep so many characters completely distinct through voice and facial expression alone is a tour de force by any standards.  How many actors can reproduce a discussion among five characters where we know exactly who is speaking?  Since each play stands on its own, if you haven’t seen any Wingfield plays before don’t let that stop you from seeing this one.

On the surface the seventh play is about a 90-day drought that strikes the Pesephone Township.  Walt’s well runs dry and his longtime neighbour Don reaches the point where he will have to sell the family dairy farm.  After no success with a local drilling company, Walt tries to find a dowser or “water witch” to help him find water.  Walt’s interviews with three local water witches, each distinctly loony in his own way, is real comic highlight.  Everyone knows the best witch of all is Don’s own father Delbert, but he, estranged from his son, now lives in a home for the aged and believes he has lost his gift.

What transpires is as comic as usual but also resonates with larger themes concerning ecology, economics and the interconnectedness of everything--locally and globally, humans with nature, humans with each other.  A spring’s hidden course has been blocked underground.  A bracelet is lost.  A relationship between father and son is abandoned.  People sing or play a melody whose origin is unknown.  Beneath the comic and prosaic would of country life, Needles taps a poetic wellspring that imbues his play not just with soul-restoring laughter but appreciation for the world as a gift to treasure.

Christopher Hoile

Note: A version of this review appeared in Eye Weekly 2011-01-14.

Photo: Rod Beattie as Delbert. © 2011 Ian Jackson.

For tickets visit thevpp.ca.