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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Wishing Well
By Laura Hitchcock

This particular wishing well may be physically located in the garden of a dysfunctional family in North Carolina but its psychic location is in the loaded territory between two sisters. Their crusty mother, Mrs. Cauthen, is both target and tool in the infuriated caustic sniping between claims investigator Callie Quayle and her infuriating insouciant teen-age sister Cindy Cauthen, two decades younger and twenty pounds lighter. Callie's husband Dennis, a TV weathercaster, is known as The Wary Weatherman, a persona that leaks into every aspect of his life. The boy next door of every girl's dream, Richard Smalls, an African-American sculptor and junkyard owner, is, in Cindy's eyes, "bootylicious."

These characters let playwright Jon Klein ring a lot of changes on the love-hate relationship between mother and daughter, sibling rivalry, manipulation, and race relations. Some clich├ęs creep into Klein's astute and funny dialogue, perhaps deliberately because that's the kind of characters they are. Mrs. Cauthen's ultimate reason for favoritism is a dubious one, as is her reason for a final reconciliation.

Still there's much to enjoy in this offering in the skilled hands of Director Maria Gobetti who brings out its humor and humanity. The catalyst for the daughters' visit is a bequest from the father they thought died 20 years ago but, in fact, only died the week before. The ensuing revelations and resolutions are played out against the impending hurricane that brings The Wary Weatherman to town. Running beneath it all is a meditation on wishing. Relying on wishing, disdaining wishing, using wishing as a discovery tool.

Kathleen Bailey plays Callie with such rare naturalness one forgets she's acting. Tai Bennett brings silky charm and gentle honesty to the many-faceted character of Richard. The role of Cindy is the one part that seems unnaturally affected, whether in the written characterization or the dramatic interpretation of Tracey Stone. Attractive Ms. Stone gives hints of what she can do in Cindy's serious moments. Judy Jean Berns is funny and acerbic in the somewhat stereotyped role of the mother and Joe O'Connor never hits a false note, playing the hapless Dennis with comic understatement.

Gary Randall's detailed set is rich in ambiance and mellowed by Tom Ormeny's lighting design. Dawn DeWitt's costumes are impeccably character-driven. Sound Designer Steve Braverman deserves a special hurrah for scary hurricane noises.

Playwright: Jon Klein
Director: Maria Gobetti
Cast: Kathleen Bailey (Callie), Judy Jean Berns (Mrs. Cauthen), Tai Bennett (Richard), Tracey Stone (Cindy), Joe O'Connor (Dennis), Nicolle White Robledo (News Anchor Voice).
Set Design: Gary Randall
Lighting Design: Tom Ormeny
Costume Design: Dawn DeWitt
Running Time: Two and a half hours, one 10-minute intermission
Running Dates: September 25-November 16, 2003.
Where: The Victory Theatre Center, 3326 West Victory Blvd, Burbank, Ph: (818) 841-5421
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on September 25.
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