If you’re looking to add a piece of theatre to your usual repertoire of holiday festivities, the Station Theatre’s latest production, Wintertime by Charles Mee, might be the perfect choice. The play focuses on four couples — each of which, in an attempt to salvage their relationship (and in true comedic fashion), has escaped to a secluded summer house, only to realize they have all had the same idea. From there, Wintertime quickly takes off in a Romantic Comedy direction, featuring; arguments that involve the whole family, secrets that become publicly revealed, and even a spontaneous striptease. Despite these clichés, though, these relationships prove much more diverse than your typical rom-com.
A warm winter atmosphere is effortlessly created from the minute you walk into the building, as the Station’s cozy lobby offers refreshments and treats, quickly warming up all who enter the space. Close by stands the ethereal and beautiful set designed by Kay Bohannon Holley, which shows masterful use of the space. The costumes, designed by Thom Schnarre, reassure us and inform us that our favorite pairs will win out in the end through color and silhouette coordination. Every actor’s costume flatters his or her figure — which can be tricky when the play calls for them to all undress into their undergarments. In the scenic transitions, all design elements contribute to creating fluidity and progress the show forward. The transitions are staged masterfully and add dimension by showing the internal struggle of each character while also accomplishing the necessary scene shift. The lighting, designed by Sarah Aker, deals with the predominantly white stage exceedingly well and creates eye-catching color palettes, transporting us to this quant summerhouse in winter. Collaboration between design teams is apparent and creates an atmosphere that welcomes the audience.
Director Timothy O’Neal has cast the play exceedingly well, taking into account both what the script was asking for and the chemistry between each pair. Giving over to the art is effortless; each couple’s love is identifiable, and you’ll find myself rooting for each couple’s positive resolution.
The cast works well as an ensemble, as they know when to take focus and when to give it elsewhere, even in sharing such a small stage with nine others. They seem comfortable with each other and themselves onstage. Both Acts end strongly and bring us closer to understanding what love means to these characters and even to ourselves.
And lest this all seem too syrupy and generic, some of the best moments of the production are moments that push the audience’s suspension of disbelief. For instance, the striptease performed by Francois (Jeff McGill), though absolutely absurd, is believable through Edmund’s (David Barkley) reactions.
Act Two itself presents some problems, as its start comes off rather preachy. Perhaps Mee is telling us what we should be learning, rather than showing us, given that his written stage directions call for everyone to sit in a line. The actors, however, fight past Mee’s staginess and push to keep the play more active, often connecting physically and rising from their chairs.
A standout among the characters, providing us with often much-needed comic relief is Bob, brilliantly played by Lincoln Machula (above, standing), who always finds intention, even within his more bizarre moments. The actors are ultimately able to bring the more fantastical given circumstances of the play to a believable and sympathetic level.
Overall, the atmosphere the Station Theatre endeavored to create is successful, evident in an affectionate and present audience. Wintertime ultimately proves to be a greatly enjoyable selection for their season. Wintertime continues its run through the 20th of December. Tickets are at $10 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, and are $15 on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, visit the Station website.
Photos within article by Thom Schnarre. Slideshow photos by Smile Politely.