Trelawney of the "Wells"

There are some play titles that are so memorable that once you hear them, you’re stuck with them for life. "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds" is one and so Trelawney of the "Wells" by Arthur Pinero. For years I have been carrying this title around with me. In my mind, "Trelawney" was an aged English gentleman and the "Wells" were some kind of spah. Rising from ignorance is one of my favorite pastimes and the IU Theatre production directed by Howard Jensen permits me the pleasure.

Trelawney is English, but a young actress of the mid Victorian period and the "Wells" is short for the Sadler Wells Theatre. In Pinero’s gentle comedy, Rose Trelawney played dewily by Allison Batty, is torn between the life with her fellow gypsies in the theatre or life with the high born love of her life, the shy, repressed Arthur Gower, played by Darby Cicci.

"Trelawney…" opens with the setting of a table for a farewell party for Rose. Clay Sanderson and Kate Braun were doing the honors. The accents used in "Trelawney" range from low class to upper class and even Irish thrown in for good measure. I’m not sure which one Clay Sanderson was using, but I really wished for supertitles.

The party with Rose’s theatre family assembles with a rare collection of theatre gypsies. Mike Mauloff and Carmen Meyers played the elders along Josh Gaboian as the company’s serious actor, Coryell Barlow as a spirted fellow trouper, Brad Fletcher as the aspiring revolutionary playwright, Abby Mueller as an actress who is returning to flaunt success with a new company and Brian Levin as the company cut up and funny man.

From here Rose and Arthur whisk off to his family home which is presided over by a rigid grand-father, huffed and puffed about by David Muller and an equally rigid aunt, played with icy composure by Lyndsey Anderson. Throughout "Trelawney…" the costumes of Rebecca Jarrell are very much a part of the action. The would-be-playwright is threadbare, the funny man looks like an organ grinder who’s lost his monkey, the stiff aunt’s gown makes it look as if she is wearing a barred cage. Characters in this show are indeed what they wear.

"Trelawney…" has too large a cast to allow me to mention everyone. I do need to add Matt Isler who plays an amusing and very Irish stage manager.

I saw an early performance of "Trelawney…" and some of the pacing wasn’t working. Scenes hadn’t quite jelled and some of the sure fire gags in the show hadn’t been worked out. The plot developed slowly in the middle acts and then the foregone conclusion of the finale simply came too quickly to have much impact. However, "Trelawney…" has remained in the repertoire for more than a hundred years. The IU production has real strengths to build on and I expect that the show will play in as the week goes on.

The IU Theatre production of Arthur Pinero’s gentle, back stage comedy Trelawney of the "Wells" plays each evening this week.

George Walker

George Walker was born in Winchester, Virginia, and raised in Owl’s Head, Maine, and Valhalla, New York. After graduating from the University of Michigan, he came to Bloomington in 1966 and completed an M.A.T. degree in English at Indiana University. George began announcing for WFIU in 1967. Currently, along with regularly hosting classical music shows, he interviews artists in a wide variety of areas and reviews plays and operas. He’s the proud father of grown sons Ben Walker (and his wife Elise Katzif Walker) and Aaron Walker. In his time away from WFIU, George enjoys an active life with wife Carolyn Lipson-Walker, singing, reading, exercising and playing guitar.

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  • Clay Sanderson

    I find it amusing that when you Google my name this review is one of the first things that pop up even though it was many years ago that I did this play!

    By the way George, my Cockney accent has gotten much better ;)

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