The Wingding Doodle Club
nytheatre.com review by John Samuel Jordan
August 15, 2004
Ever wonder what really goes on behind the scenes of a children’s television show? Steve Burns of Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues was not only rumored to be a heroin addict, but “died” a horrible death. Miss Judy, the perky hostess of Northeastern PA’s Hatchy Milatchy (my childhood favorite), was constantly battling gossip of cocaine addiction. And now, courtesy of playwright/director Ken Dashow (Q104.3 FM), along with Jay and Cindy Gutterman Productions LLC, we have The Wingding Doodle Club, which embraces enough backstage shenanigans to make Melrose Place look like Sesame Street.
Jane Purcell Dashow and Bill Weeden portray Pat and Charlie Greenwood, an estranged married couple who have been performing on a children's TV show for many miserable years together. Cole Razzano plays Cally, the stage manager who tries to keep peace, with a pleasant mix of conviction and compassion. Karen Stanion plays Eureka, the resident sexpot, with gusto. Lawrence Lesher as Lester, the troubled puppeteer, would frighten any child under 65. And Neal Arluck stereotypically plays Ralph Falcone, the nerdy station manager.
The best moments involve the transitions between the “real-life” fighting of the characters and the television show itself. Now that is comedy. Everyone does a great job; Ms. Dashow’s timing, in particular, is exceptional.
The problem with The Wingding Doodle Club is that it's not clear what audience it's targeting. There is just enough foul language and sexual innuendo to make it inappropriate for small children, but not enough to satisfy the older, seen-and-heard-it-all-before crowd. I also have a personal gripe with the production: I grew up in the area where this play takes place. “You bet’cha!,” albeit a funny line in any play or movie about hicks, just doesn’t match the local dialect of Wilkes-Barre, PA. Minnesota, maybe?
The direction is tolerable. However, too many private moments take place right in the midst of everyone else onstage, who just seem to stand around and wait for their next line. The uncredited costumes, set, and lighting are appropriate.