Witching for Laughs

Wingfield Lost & Found
Written by Dan Needles
Directed by Doug Beattie
Performed by Rod Beattie
Grand Theatre, London
February 9 to 28, 2010

Entertain This Thought!
By Mary Alderson

The Wingfield franchise of laughter continues with its seventh instalment, Wingfield Lost & Found, which opened Friday at London’s Grand Theatre.

For those not familiar with the Wingfield series, Dan Needles has used a string of newspaper columns to create a story of a Toronto stockbroker who leaves the big city to become a hobby farmer in the mythical township of Persephone. Stratford actor Rod Beattie stars in the one-man shows, directed by his brother Doug Beattie. The series has a loyal following, and they have stuck closely to their popular format – almost all the same characters, on the same set, but with new laughs in each play. The plays have been filmed for television, in exactly the same format as the stage productions.

The play opens with Walt’s Belted Galloway cattle escaping, and the nephews try to round them up using text messaging to track their whereabouts. Walt’s neighbour, the Squire, says that having those two show up to help is like have four good men not show up. Maybe you’re familiar with the Galloway: they are black at each end, with a white belt in the middle, like an Oreo cookie, which Walt thinks would be easier to raise.

It’s a long hot summer on the 7th line, and the Wingfields’ well runs dry. Walt tries to get the local witcher, “Dry Well Delbert”, out of the retirement home to tell him where to drill a well. At $40 a foot, AAA Well Drilling puts down a 200’ well with no water, as Walt interviews other diviners and dowers. The drought continues with great hilarity.

Rod Beattie makes a one man show seem easy, as he switches from one character to another. I started counting the characters for which he has distinctive voices, and lost track at about 13 (that’s counting Walt and Maggie’s toddler Hope who says beep-beep and Spike the dog who says woof, in a sub-plot about the Road Runner chasing the Coyote.)

I heard some of the stories two years ago when Dan Needles spoke at a conference I attended. Needles explains how he (or Walt) moved from the city to the country thinking it would be better for the environment. But as a city dweller, he left his car parked underground in his high-rise apartment building. Everywhere he went, he walked or took transit. But moving to the country, he now drives a 4×4 everywhere he goes, uses a tractor, a garden tractor, a lawnmower, etc. His carbon footprint is much greater as a rural dweller. Needles got plenty of laughs at the conference, but when the words come out of Walt’s mouth, they are even funnier.

If you’re a fan of Wingfield, you will, of course, enjoy this latest adventure. If you haven’t seen any of the series before, that’s all right, you can jump in any time and still have fun.

Wingfield Lost & Found continues at the Grand Theatre in London until February 28. Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 519-672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593, or visit www.grandtheatre.com .

A member of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association, Mary Alderson reviews shows at area theatres and posts her reviews at www.entertainthisthought.com