San Diego Theater Review HICKORYDICKORY (Moxie Theatre)

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by John Todd on November 29, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional

WASTED TIME

In Marisa Wegrzyn’s Hickorydickory, all humans are born with a mortal clock encoded with the date and time of their death.  This mortal clock takes the form of an actual pocket watch.  For most people, it goes unnoticed because it is hidden behind their heart.  But for the “unfortunate few” the watch is stuck in their brain where the internal ticking is a constant reminder of the time they have left.

John Todd’s Stage and Cinema review of HICKORYDICKORY at Moxie in San Diego

At Wicker’s Watch & Clock Repair, three generations of Wickers have perfected the art of surgically removing mortal clocks from those unfortunate few, thereby returning the patient to blessed ignorance.  Patients are admonished not to open the watch lest they be tortured with knowledge of their demise.  Of course that’s the fun of it: what to do with your life when you know exactly how long it will be.  If the intriguing premise had been kept that simple, Ms. Wegrzyn could have played with it in marvelous ways. Unfortunately she kept tinkering with the mainspring until it uncoiled from its casing.

The complexity can be baffling:  Sometimes a mortal clock can break, which in turn halts the aging process; sometimes time can’t be added to the clock, then it can; and in rare cases between a mother and child, time can be transferred.  But wait, it seems if you’re a non-biological parent you can still transfer time.  Then, during the course of one such transfer, the mortal clock is broken, but instead of stopping the aging process, the body just dies!  Huh!?!  The script’s incongruity wreaks havoc with our suspension of disbelief and muddies the broader themes of the play.

On the surface, Ms. Wegrzyn appears to explore time—both how much we have to live and who we choose to share that time with.  The thematic arc is about love, but the playwright takes us on a lengthy, convoluted evening to get there.

John Todd’s Stage and Cinema review of HICKORYDICKORY at Moxie in San Diego

At the play’s start, Cari Lee (played with streetwise bluntness by Samantha Ginn) is a 17-year old mother trapped in a 35-year old body (a generation shifting role); upon meeting her 17-year old daughter Dale (Erin Peterson), Cari Lee exclaims, “All’s you need to understand is we’re supposed to love each other!”  Cari Lee’s clock has stopped and the somewhat-middle aged proprietor of an old-fashioned clock shop, Jimmy Wicker (a delightfully sweaty John Anderson), is just the guy to fix it.  But Jimmy is also the father of Dale from a high school romance with Cari Lee.  Now, he’s married to Cari Lee’s rival Kate (JoAnn Glover), who has raised Dale from infancy. And Jimmy’s apprentice, Rowan (crisply played by Justin Lang), happens to be Dale’s beau.

At play’s end, Helen, the primary teacher of mortal clock fixing (Glover again), confesses “I’m ashamed of how wrong I was. We’re not tethered by flesh or bone or chain.  It’s love.  Love gives us time.” Really?  It’s love that gives us time?  With love bookended this way, the mortal clock device seems more of a red herring than a useful metaphor.

John Todd’s Stage and Cinema review of HICKORYDICKORY at Moxie in San Diego

When the play takes us back 18 years, we meet the young Jimmy Wicker, son of Helen who, by the way, was born in the 19th century but whose clock had stopped; she has waited to meet the man who could fix it, namely Jimmy’s father Richard (Anderson again), whom she met when he was a child; but she waited until he grew up to match her age before she would marry him and… oh, never-mind.  As you can tell, the excessive play is in serious need of editing.

Director Jennifer Eve Thorn helps to make sense of a bit of the inscrutable storyline and also brings humor to the proceedings (although the surgical clock removal scenes lacked the kind of madcap hysteria that Wegrzyn seemed to have built into it). The jewel-movement of the play is Jennifer Brawn Gitting’s clock-face turntable that allows us to see the eerie surgery in all 360 degrees.  Matt Lescault-Wood sound design clearly denotes crucial shifts in time and space.

John Todd’s Stage and Cinema review of HICKORYDICKORY at Moxie in San Diego

Wegrzyn’s previous work has been excellent.  Her The Butcher of Baraboo (also produced by Moxie a couple seasons back) drew sharp, viciously funny characters in a compelling family nightmare.  And Hickorydickory also has its moments of poetry.  But the caveat in this case is to be wary of tinkering with time.  Ms. Wegrzyn tries to be a poet, a physicist and a clocksmith, but ends up wasting our time.

photos by Daren Scott

Hickorydickory
Moxie Theatre
scheduled to end on December 16, 2012
for tickets, call 858-598-7620 or visit http://www.moxietheatre.com

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