Jun 16, 2006 — Wingfield's Inferno runs in the Springer Theatre at the 1000 Islands Playhouse through July 15. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at the opening night and has this review.
Back in 1982 playwright Dan Needles, director Doug Beattie and actor Rod Beattie collaborated on a one-man play called LETTER FROM WINGFIELD FARM. It was so successful that it has spawned five sequels. WINGFIELD'S INFERNO is the latest.
Walt Wingfield is a stockbroker who left the city to become a farmer. The format remains unchanged. We first see Ed, a newspaper publisher, reading a letter from Walt. Next we meet Walt who tells of events in his life through letters to Ed. Each letter is about separate incidents loosely tied together by a theme - in this case the perils and pitfalls of insurance. In the initial scene Walt compares insurance premiums to being ". . . pecked to death by ducks. It doesn't seem like much, but the bills mount up.
Somehow the playwright has managed to connect an unusual encounter with a skunk involving horse tranquilizers, a local fire, rare South American roosters, a unique horse race and Walt's daughter's illness into a cohesive whole. Mr. Needles perfectly walks the fine line between sentiment and sentimentality, while also providing plenty of humor.
Rod Beattie is a master of delineating characters with minimal changes of expression and voice. In the course of the play we meet his wife, daughter, dog Spike, his M.P., Mrs. Lynch, neighbor Don, a local politician and my favorite, his snortingly irreverent brother-in-law Freddie. All these characters seem to come alive on the stage.
This is gentle human comedy, in the manner of Will Rogers and Garrison Keillor. If you've not yet made the acquaintance of Walt Wingfield, this production provides a good opportunity. If you have, it's like welcoming an old friend.
On a scale of one to five, the 1000 Islands Playhouse production of WINGFIELD'S INFERNO gets five fish. For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.