SHOW: The Foundling Wheel
GROUP: A Whole New Missoula
ATTENDED: Fri., Sept. 6, 8 p.m., Hodge Podge Arts
CLOSES: Sun., Sept. 15
BRIEF SELF-DESCRIPTION: “The Foundling Wheel attacks the ever-growing animosity between the liberal and conservative concepts of America through the lens of extremely personal characters and their problems.”
WE THINK: The Foundling Wheel is a set of four interconnected monologues, written and performed by Davey Strattan White, adjunct faculty at Temple University and Montgomery County Community College. It’s performed in the basement of Hodge Podge Arts, an appropriately named used music, books and clothing store on South Street. The monologues attempt, and mostly succeed, in illuminating the futility of partisan politics by presenting characters who feel trapped by their current situations and worldviews. All are well-written, although the first, Jeff (originally developed for Strattan White’s MFA playwriting class) is by the far the most compelling: full of snarky quips (“He’s fatter than Rush Limbaugh’s more corpulent uncle!”) and unique descriptions (“a 6’4” out-of-the-box Ken doll”). Jeff is an outspoken Democrat fed up with corporate America, who steals a baby from a parking garage, then travels the country in a Winnebago raising him. The second monologue, Zane, is Jeff’s nemesis — a former bully with a strong set of Republican values who nevertheless feels cornered into a life of choir practices and Honey Nut Cheerios-eating. From an acting standpoint, Jeff and Zane are nearly indistinguishable — both are smart, sarcastic, and searching for something greater — but then again, that’s sort of the point. No matter your views, you can’t escape from society’s stronghold.
The third monologue takes the viewpoint of Charon, a grizzled fogy who sends dead bodies down the Ohio River — while the fourth is from Moses, Zane’s son and Jeff’s adapted son (remember: he steals a baby). Of the four, I felt that Charon could have been eliminated — although it was fun seeing Strattan White adopt an old-man act, the play could have been stronger if it focused on the duality between Jeff and Zane, with Moses’s story acting as an epilogue. This also would have cut down the running time a little, which at an hour and 20 minutes was about the maximum I was happy to sit in a clammy basement.
Ultimately, The Foundling Wheel succeeds because it’s smartly-written and acted, and incisive without being preachy. Strattan White is an engaging performer, and with a little tweaking, this could become a true festival gem.
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