WINGFIELD'S INFERNO by Dan Needles, directed by Douglas Beattie (Mirvish). At the Royal Alexandra (260 King West). See Continuing, page 86. $26-$75. 416-872-1212. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Something's missing from Wingfield's Inferno , the latest chapter in Rod Beattie 's solo farm-show franchise.
Beattie has regaled Canadian audiences for over two decades with the doings of Walt Wingfield, a former chairman of the board turned farmer.
Each Wingfield instalment riffs on a larger theme. In this production, Walt deals with risk when his newborn daughter, Hope, falls ill, but also when the citizens of the fictional Larkspur are faced with the loss of the town hall to a fire.
Beattie's ability to play multiple characters to mould his rubber face and wrap his baritone around different vocal qualities never ceases to entertain. But the heart of the entire Wingfield franchise has always been its down-home dopey sweetness that's as benign as an hour and a half in Lake Wobegon.
Where is that heart? Here, a visibly exhausted Beattie goes through his paces like a vaguely miffed show pony. He knows his audience well; where they'll laugh out loud, chuckle, nod and get misty-eyed. But many of them left at intermission looking disappointed.
Those of us who stayed did so in order to curl up in something familiar but oddly bland.