by Rob Ackerman
Directed by Margarett Perry
A Production of the Working Theater
at the Abingdion Theatre Arts Complex,
312 West 36th Street

Reviewed by David Spencer

Call Me Waldo starts out well. Gus (Brian Dykstra), an electrician and contractor, is on the job with his best man Lee (Matthew Boston). Suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere, Lee’s blue collar personality drops, his voice and physicality completely change, and he’s channeling the essence, if not the actual spirit, of Ralph Waldo Emerson. But maybe the spirit too. Needless to say, it spooks Gus and deeply concerns Lee’s wife, Sarah (Rita Rehn); but Sarah’s concern turns into a peculiar fascination when her medical colleague and well-read best friend, Cynthia (Jennifer Dorr White), starts hipping her to Emerson’s jive.

                        Unlike playwright Rob Ackerman’s excellent Tabletop, likewise written for the Working Theatre (a company that specializes in plays about the workplace), Call Me Waldo suffers from a diffused sense of purpose. Once it gets past the implicit message that blue collar minds go deep and are as capable of abstract philosophical thought as they are of associating nuts to bolts, it runs seriously out of steam and wanders in search of a story. Director Margarett Perry and a uniformly excellent cast (with my college classmate Rita Rehn [not looking a helluva lot older either] carrying, by small margin, the predominant role, as Sarah’s the play’s pivot point and revelation finder) do their best to keep the play buoyed and sitcom-light, but there simply isn’t a strong enough structural spine. They manage, though, to sustain the dignity of professional polish. They’re a good quartet of actors to know.

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