Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul

The Doctor Wee-Woo Show
an alleged Theatre Company
Review by Arthur Dorman | Season Schedule

Also see Arty's recent reviews of The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington, Hairspray, Trouble in Tahiti and Service Provider and Beautiful - The Carole King Musical

J. McIntyre Godwin
Photo by Christopher Bales
There once was a little boy who was entranced by Fred Rogers, better known as Mister Rogers, and his long-running children's television show, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." This little boy dreamed of growing up to become a children's television show host like his idol. He realized his dream when he took the name Doctor Wee-Woo and became host of The Doctor Wee-Woo Show, which is also the title of a ridiculously clever, and at times provocative, play by Jake Mierva and Danylo Loutchko. The play is the offspring of an alleged Theatre Company, an intrepid troupe who have made a name for themselves at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. It is now being staged as a guest production at the Open Eye Theatre.

What kind of doctor is Doctor Wee-Woo? Why, a doctor of learning, he gleefully announces at the top of each episode, with the phrase "doctor of learning" accompanied each time by a goofy sound resembling a bicycle horn. We are treated to an entire episode of Doctor Wee-Woo's show, which begins with regular segments based on the all-important daily routine. The routine includes the Doctor putting on his white coat, a daily fun fact, a daily apple provided by an adult sized Mrs. Apple Tree puppet, and a daily letter from a viewer at home, delivered by another puppet, Mail Bag. The daily letter gives the episode its substance, as Dr. Wee-Woo responds to a five-year-old viewer's fear of not being able to achieve her life's dream because it seems very hard. Since he is a doctor of learning, Dr. Wee-Woo sets out to help her–and all the children like her–how to achieve one's dream.

Other puppet friends on the show are the Doctor's loyal friend, Sedrick the Sasquatch, who, though a sasquatch, is only about the size of Dr. Wee-Woo's forearm; Broom and Dustpan, who are a humorously bickering married couple; and Robert the Blob, the sad remains of a science experiment gone wrong, who lives in Dr. Wee-Woo's basement. There is also the Thinking Fern, though that one is not so much a puppet as, well, a hanging plant.

It is all very charming, with some jokes that fall in the category of "groaners" but would tickle the funny bones of small fry viewers, along with lessons in manners and self-affirmations that could do anyone a bit of good. When the episode we've been watching is over, we sense a blank space in the play and wonder if that's the whole it. No, Dr. Wee-Woo has something more in mind, and insists on carrying out his agenda, though the rest of his cast all urge him to abandon it. What we realize about Dr. Wee-Woo and his cast members, all of whom are creations of his own imagination, is by turns funny, disturbing, sad and perplexing. The questions it poses about one's purpose in life is not all that different from the question Mail Bag brought to the Doctor, but not as blithely answered.

The play was written by Jake Mierva and Danylo Loutchko, who have a keen eye and ear for the elements of children's television shows aimed at very young children that parents hope their kids will watch because they are so wholesome, and reinforce positive life lessons. In the case of Dr. Wee-Woo's program, its sweet and affirming nature, rife with sing-song voices and broad gestures, is exaggerated just within an inch of being a "Saturday Night Live" spoof. Going further, Mierva and Loutchko reveal a talent for unspooling far more challenging feelings and conflicts, as we observe the central character's inner turmoil, stirred by demons and disappointments that drive his fierce commitment to his Dr. Wee-Woo persona.

Alexandra Baus Pozniak directs the play, guiding the cast to play their characters through the episode of Doctor Wee-Woo with total conviction, and then for each to express their "true" character once the episode ends and the Doctor and his crew get down to brass tacks. It all works very well, including the physical aspects of puppet-handling required of four of the play's five actors.

Doctor Wee-Woo is played by J. McIntyre Godwin, the sole actor who does not handle a puppet. Nonetheless, Godwin has a tremendous amount to handle given his character's bifurcated personality, one a jovial solver of life's pressing personal problems, the other a desperate man seeking validation for his existence. Goodwin does a wonderful job, not only with his character's spoken lines but also with the tremendous amount of physicality that the role requires.

The puppets, designed by Robert McGrady, are inventive gems, giving us a lovably furry sasquatch and wittily anthropomorphic mailbag, dustpan, broom and blob. Jeffrey Nolan works the Sedrick the Sasquatch puppet, endowing the Doctor's friend with a genuine sense of character through use of his voice and puppet handling. Yvonne Freese is splendid behind Mrs. Apple Tree, with her expressive face showing through a knothole to convey the tree's range of motherly feelings. Sarah Halverson handling Broom and Thomas M. Buan handling Dustpan make a fine comic duo. Halverson is also adept as the eager-to-please Mail Bag, and Buan brings life to the low-spirited Robert the Blob.

The set design by Danylo Loutchko is delightful, with Doctor Wee-Woo's TV studio full of sharply formed, brightly colored furnishings–a pink refrigerator, orange and powder blue sink, yellow telephone, and the like, resembling one of those old Colorforms playsets. When the show is played through and the Doctor Wee-Woo's set is stripped bare, we see the chaos that is the true setting of the Doctor's life. Eric Wigham's light and sound design add a great deal to the production, in particular the sound effects that accompany Doctor Wee-Woo's television program, and the jangly renditions of such preschool tunes as "The Wheels on the Bus," "I'm a Little Teapot," and "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" that greet the audience as we take our seats to set the mood for what will follow. Loutchko and Halverson provide original music, including the apt "Doctor Wee-Woo Show Theme Song."

Be advised that, even though there are puppets and the first portion of the play resembles a G-rated children's program, this play is not for children. The latter portions liberally uses four letter words and address adult concerns. an alleged Theatre Company's website suggests it is suitable for those age 15 and up.

I will admit that the play's title had me questioning how much serious theatre-making would be involved in this production. I am happy to report that The Doctor Wee-Woo Show is inventive, funny, and fairly zany, as the title suggests, but that its creators, while clearly setting out to entertain, also have serious concerns and sensibilities thoughtfully amalgamated into the show. Whether you just want to laugh, or want to think, or if you are in the market to do both, I suggest you tune in to The Doctor Wee-Woo Show.

The Doctor Wee-Woo Show, produced by an alleged Theatre Company, runs through March 24, 2024, at Open Eye Theatre, 506 East 24th Street, Minneapolis MN. For tickets and information, please visit or call 612-874-6368.

Playwrights: Jake Mierva & Danylo Loutchko; Director: Alexandra Baus Pozniak; Music: Danylo Loutchko and Sarah Halverson; Puppet Design: Robert McGrady; Puppet Consultant: Yvonne Freese; Set and Props Design: Danylo Loutchko; Lighting and Sound Design: Eric Wigham; Assistant Director: Steph Callaghan; Stage Manager: Karina Hunt; Production Manager: Jake Mierva.

Cast: Thomas M. Buan (Rob the Blob/Dustpan), Yvonne Freese (Mrs. Apple Tree), J. McIntyre Godwin: (Doctor Wee-Woo), Sarah Halverson (Mailbag/Broom), Jeffrey Nolan (Sedrick the Sasquatch).