The Wilma Theater’s newest addition to the 2003-2004 season, “Wintertime,” defies singular moments of relevance and the extraordinary. Quite frankly, beginning-to-end, it is relevant and extraordinary.
Playwright Charles L. Mee carves a beautiful tale of love, lust, lies, compost and bare asses (no joke) from ice in “Wintertime.”
It’s the story of an unconventional couple, Maria and Frank, who use infidelities as harbors for neurosis and passions. This is the habit their son, Jonathan, is trying to avoid with his first love, Ariel.
Toss in Maria’s French mattress frog Francois, Frank’s sensitive same-sex lover Edmund, some huffy-yet-fluffy lesbian neighbors, a leather-clad compost delivery man and a French bimbette physician and the plot thickens to a rich dramadey about the things people will do for love.
Placed in the couple’s extravagant summer home (right after Christmas), the set is a disenchanted forest complete with a fully stocked bar, Jacuzzi, massive glass windows and enough emotional turmoil to keep the fires burning throughout “Wintertime.”
Fun facts to know and tell: This play is the real thing – heart, soul and incredible talent. The cast seems handpicked to propel Mee’s genius material to the audience with skill and enthusiasm.
Elizabeth Hess (the mom from Clarissa Explains it All!) as Maria is the picture of blonde-bombshell sex appeal with a biting edge of humanity and cool.
Dale Soules, the other breakout performance as Hilda, the guts ‘n’ gumption lesbian next door, radiates with talent and joy for the work.
Temple’s own Julianna Zinkel (a junior on leave from our fair institution) gives a fair turn as Ariel, the flighty fiancé to Jonathan (Michael Ewing as a cloth-cut insolent child).
Individual performances aside, the ensemble cast is superb, moving through the performance with an ease and intimacy that suggests a strong united front in the name of an amazing script.
The Wilma is fortunate to have such a relationship with Mee and vice-versa. This production is an accomplishment for an organization that often tests the water but rarely succeeds in diving in.
But “Wintertime” makes a memorable splash.
Matt Donnelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org