Review: “Wink” in Sebastopol

Feline conspiracy theorists who believe that cats are plotting to take over the world might count playwright Jen Silverman as an ally to their cause with Wink, Silverman’s absurd look at the nature of human transformation… and a vengeful cat.  Sebastopol’s Main Stage West has a production running through June 25.   

Sophie (Ilana Niernberger) is quite upset. She hasn’t seen her cat Wink in days and her life seems to be collapsing around her. Her cold, passionless husband Gregor (John Browning) seems not to care a whit, but in a session with his therapist Dr. Franz (Michael Fontaine), Gregor confesses to offing the cat. He confesses to much more, but the good doctor thinks he just needs to repress what are obviously latent homosexual tendencies and go on vacation with his wife.

Sophie, in a separate therapeutic session with Dr. Franz (Why are they both seeing him? He’s horrible!), has a few admissions of her own, but once again the good doctor suggests suppression as well as housework and a vacation as the solutions to her problems.

Dr. Franz (Michael Fontaine) suggests therapeutic housework to Sophie (Ilana Niernberger).

And then Wink shows up, significantly worse for wear and really, really pissed.   

Wink is played by Sam Coughlin in a masterful physical performance. Part Rum Tum Tugger, part Sweeney Todd, Coughlin’s Wink prowls the stage with all the familiar feline movements gleaned no doubt from watching hours of cat videos under the careful tutelage of director James Pelican.

Once you buy into a talking, preening cat with murder on his mind, the transformation of Sophie from uptight, middle-class housewife to scheming terrorist seems less absurd. Gregor and Dr. Franz go through their own transformations, but I’ll just leave it at that.

Silverman packs a lot into her script about the dichotomy of who we are under the skin versus who we present ourselves to be, and she does it in a show that runs a little over an hour. The cast is strong, and the show works well in the relatively small space which features a nice David Lear-designed set representing two homes and a medical office that happens to get trashed at each performance.  

Wink is a strange show. How strange? Well, it’s not quite Cats on acid, but it’s far enough out there to offend some, amuse others, and confound the rest.

It’s not a purr-fect show, but it sure is different.

‘Wink’ runs through June 25 at Main Stage West, 104 N. Main St., Sebastopol. Thu-Sat at 8:00pm; Sun, 5pm. $20-$32. Proof of vaccination and masking required. 707.823.0177.

This review was originally published in an edited version in the North Bay Bohemian.

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