Sweet. Dreamy. Romantic. These are the words that playwright Charles Mee used to describe his play Wintertime, which will open this Thursday at the Station Theatre. This production, directed by Timothy O’Neal, features four sets of lovers: Ariel and Jonathan; Maria (Jonathan’s mother) and her lover, Francois; Frank (Jonathan’s father) and his lover, Edmund; and Hilda and her lover…who has fallen through the ice. These couples converge on a summer home — except, as the title suggests, in the winter. Timothy O’Neal kindly answered my questions about this quirky romance.
Smile Politely: Your production of Orestes 2.0, which won the Big Easy Award for Best College Production, was also written by Charles Mee. What draws you toMee’s work?
Timothy O’Neal: I really love his figurative and lyrical turns of phrase and his great theatrical style. He doesn’t pull any punches with his characters. His ideas are timeless whether they’re set in Ancient Greece or present day America. It’s a great respite from all the realist drama that seems to permeate contemporary theatre. Sometimes you want a forest in a house on stage and not to debate it. Sometimes scripts don’t ask for literal or firmly realistic settings or actions, and Chuck Mee is a great crusader for that. Not to say that realist drama doesn’t also have its place.
SP: When I first researched Wintertime, I found the entire play online. I thought I’d made a mistake, though, because the stage directions and even the dialogue looked like poetry to my eye. I also read that there are elements of Shakespeare, Chekhov, and Moliere. Where do these influences turn up in the play?
O’Neal: Nope, not a mistake, and that’s actually another reason why I respect Mee and his work. He presents his plays in full online in a stylized form, using his grandiose ideas of setting, costume, lighting, and sound, and then says on his website to take his work and rip it to shreds and make it your own with your name on it, just as he’s done to myths, Shakespeare, Moliere, Euripides, Soap Opera Digest, the internet, and other [sources]. I’m not much of a playwright, and I love to use his words, so I don’t usually opt to go that far, and a lot of the reason is because of how he’s masterfully crafted all those elements. Very Shakespearean in all his use of figurative language, this play in particular shares in Moliere’s humor in misunderstandings and farcical style. Chekhov pops up in the use of humor in the otherwise tragic elements of the play.
SP: What can you tell me about the cast?
O’Neal: That they’re all wonderful? Heh heh. But seriously, they’re a great group with wildly varying experiences both on the stage and off. Outside of Lincoln Machula (pictured, right), who I had the pleasure of working with on Orphans, it’s an entirely new group of people to me, although many are Station or C-U veterans. I’m extra glad, however, to bring Evan Smith (who plays Jonathan) to audiences since his recent return from an extended stint in Phoenix. He’s a great talent who will hopefully back to the Station and be on more stages in the area in the future. But they all bring their great ideas and tools to the table, and they’ve all come together to make a great show.
SP: What type of audience are you hoping to attract? Is this a good play for a date night?
O’Neal: It’s all about love, the discovery of what love really is, what happens when you take love for granted. So, anyone (or any couple) looking for a story with an ultimately happy ending, with plenty of poignant moments and tons of laughs, come one come all!
Both old and new couples alike are encouraged to see this frothy romance at the Station Theatre. Wintertime runs from December 4th-20th, and all shows begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, and $15 on Fridays and Saturdays. Reservations can be made at stationtheatre.com or by calling 384-4000.