On very rare occasions it’s worth seeing a play or a movie just for one memorable scene alone. And although, even without that scene, ‘Wink’ entertains first and foremost, it’s worth it for that one stand alone.
Witty and absurdist in style, but also allegorical and thought provoking, it was written by Jen Silverman, and astutely directed by Mike Donahue, with a very strong cast of four.
At its heart, ‘Wink’ is a play about metamorphosis. On the surface, the plot concerns a conventional, young, married couple, who are arguing about their missing cat Wink. They each have private sessions with their psychiatrist, Dr Frans, who becomes party to why the cat disappeared. Dr Frans is the overseer of conformity, even committing the ultimate sin of transferring his own repressed and unresolved issues onto his clients in order to do so. “If you’ve got a problem STAMP IT DOWN, STAMP IT DOWN until it’s gone,” he advises his clients. Of course, we all know, (probably more in truth than in practice), that if you bury your problems, they come right back to haunt you. And this idea provides the main body of the play. ‘Body,’ being the operative word. The cat, WInk, of course, is the buried problem, the bearer of much of his owner’s misplaced and repressed emotion, and he does indeed come back, in larger than life form, to serve as a catalyst for change. I’m sure the link between ‘cat,’ ‘catalyst,’ and ‘cathartic,’ is intentional on the writer, Jen Silverman’s part, as all are themes within the play. I refer again to ‘that scene.’
The cat, Wink, played captivatingly by John William Watkin, is wonderfully feline. He is detached and insular, yet sensuous, demanding and self absorbed. This is a demanding part to command, but he succeeded.
Liz Sklar plays Sofie, the housewife, with an extremely deft comic turn, skillfully counterbalanced with simmering anger and repressed emotion. The memorable scene belongs to her, and I’ve never seen a more powerful and spellbinding bit of theater.
Seann Gallagher plays her husband, Gregor with dead pan assurance. He absorbs and reflects the dark comedy beautifully, with a great ability to seamlessly switch into more serious moments. He has his own fair share of troubling flaws, quirks and humiliations and plays them with aplomb.
Doctor Frans, played by Kevin R. Free, is also compelling, in turns funny and tragic. He masterfully allows his buried true self to rise to the surface, as the cat slowly unleashes his feline charms.
There is only one set, which, through skillful lighting, serves to become three different locations. It was never a problem, the audience was more than willing to suspend disbelief for this production. It moved along at a fast pace, with never a dull moment. As if prompted by intuition, my friend, who accompanied me to the play, took a before and after photo of the set. This turned out to be a good memento, because the photos serve as a strong visual testament of the arc the play takes. ‘Wink’ was a great choice with which to close the season at the Marin Theater Company, and I can see why they saved it ’til last. I love that the company take risks with their various productions, and in my opinion, this was a risk well worth taking.