Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Walter Cronkite Is Dead
Also see Richard's recent reviews of Barrymore and Jesus & Johnny Appleweed's Holy Rollin' Family Christmas
I was on edge, during the show–after being "ambushed" last Christmas, but somehow we both got through it. In Joe Calarco's 90-minute play, now in production at West End Players Guild, there's no escape for much of the roller coaster of a comedy, set inside an airport shut down by a storm. It's touch-and-go for the two women on stage, as their political clash begins brewing in the opening moments. And, spoiler alert, the play is set in 2010, and CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, the soul of politesse–once called the most trusted man in America–had died the year before.
Leslie Wobbe plays Patty, a loud, hilarious Tennessee housewife with a Joyce Meyer hairdo, and Kate Durbin is Margaret, a polished east coast widow. Together they are sharp and fully dimensional under the nuanced direction of Anna Blair. It must be a good sign if we can gasp and laugh at the same moments, as the two women thrash it out in front of us in this very current red state / blue state comedy. Patty barges into a quiet corner of a cafe at busy Reagan National Airport, as thunder and lightning explode outside. And pensive Margaret quickly puts her purse on the other chair at her table, to keep the intruder away.
But much of the comedy comes from the general attitudes of the two characters, rather than anything as specific as "the price of eggs in St. Louis" (a phrase I've heard attributed to Harry Truman). One woman lays all her philosophies out on the table every time she opens her mouth. And the other is guarded, whispering over a piece of paper in her solitary moments. Increasingly, through a hundred different attempts at passing the time, both women's weaknesses and sorrow give the play its depth and meaning.
It's probably just a play about nothing, except learning to treat one another as human beings all over again, in needlessly anguishing times. Did you ever think you'd have to learn how not to act like a schoolyard bully? Or that TV news anchors would be the cause of it all?
But that's the way it is, until the two characters on stage finally crack open their shells, and begin speak from the heart. And begin to listen to one another.
Walter Cronkite Is Dead runs through December 10, 2023, at West End Players Guild, Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Blvd., St. Louis MO For tickets and information, please visit www.westendplayers.org.