Hollywood Fringe 2019
Adaptation of book about oddball characters about to be displaced by the destruction of a dam.
In 2003, authors Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, and Paul Dinello published a book called Wigfield: The Can Do Town That Just May Not, about a small town of oddballs. I bought and read this funny book when it came out then, complete with pictures of the three authors, each portraying several of the town’s residents. Sixteen years later, it’s been lovingly adapted (with permission from the authors!) by another fan of the book, Pamela Eberhardt.
The story begins with first-time author Russell Hokes (Scott Golden), who thinks he can get a decent paycheck for writing about America’s dying small towns. He finds the perfect case study after stumbling upon Wigfield, not so much a town as a congregation of squatters on government land who were never meant to be there in the first place who are now on the cusp of being displaced by the destruction of a dam. The ensemble cast of ten each get to play twenty-one different roles between themselves, nearly all them daffy to the extreme, including a grungy and unsettling taxidermist (Heather Marie Roberts), a pair of sweet and care-free local strippers (Bedjou Jean and Pam Quinn), and a trio of squabbling mayors (Jeff Scot Carey, Joe Hernandez-Kolski, and Eric Curtis Johnson). Much of the cast capture the right tone of these characters that embody the off-kilter spirit of this ill-fated community that Russell Hokes is happy to exploit.
Eberhardt’s script for Wigfield is littered with so much goofy humor that it’s hard not to keep a smile on your face. You will laugh as much as you raise an eyebrow and it’s really fun to catch a classic Stephen Colbert-style turn of phrase pop out in pithy one-liners throughout the show. The story takes its time to get started however; the first half of the show is devoted to meeting these eccentric characters in their natural habitat. The plot that drives these characters to come to life through action doesn’t get going until the second half. And while there are plenty of inspired comedic turns, sadly, a lot of the fudge-based humor succumbs to the law of diminishing returns.
Nevertheless, Arlo Sanders directs with gusto, and we get some strong performances (particularly Hernandez-Kolski as Fleet Hollinger and Meghan Parks, as both a local “sheriff” and a batty old woman, each get to really shine here). We end up with a fun show filled with affection for its source material that anyone can enjoy. -ZACHARY BERNSTEIN