Well, not deep

WELL, by Jonathan Wilson, directed by Chris Abraham, with Paul Braunstein, Melody Johnson, Holly Lewis, Richard McMillan and Aaron Willis..


WELL, by Jonathan Wilson, directed by Chris Abraham, with Paul Braunstein, Melody Johnson, Holly Lewis, Richard McMillan and Aaron Willis. Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman). Runs to June 2, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm, May 25 at 4 and 8:30 pm, May 26 at 4 pm. $24-$30, Sunday pwyc-$15. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN

alice discovers a wonderland when she goes down the rabbit hole. In Jonathan Wilson’s Well, Wee Willie (Aaron Willis) carries some dark secrets back when he’s rescued from his hole — an abandoned well.Nearly 20 years later, Willie leaves a psychiatric institute to find the well that’s defined his life and made him a celebrity. He and Charlotte (Holly Lewis), the companion only he can see, involve a TV reporter (Melody Johnson) and her sometime boyfriend/ camera operator (Paul Braunstein) in the search. On another level, all four are looking for tenderness and meaning in their lives.

While Wilson’s gift for comedy is the play’s ace, his storytelling is flimsy, especially in the melodramatic denouement. The characters aren’t well developed — the empathetic Lewis has especially little to work with — and their sketchy stories and tenuous relationships are not involving, though some clever staging by director Chris Abraham covers some of the story’s holes.

Braunstein handles the deadpan laughs well, and Willis has a shy openness and warmth that draw us in, but it’s Richard McMillan’s raw-edged work as Willie’s cantankerous uncle, a former rodeo star now stuck selling firewood and antique dolls, who holds the stage most securely. jonkap@nowtoronto.com

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