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THEATER REVIEW: Moxie's wild and woolly “Hickorydickory”

“Nobody expects to live forever, but nobody expects to die in the next 10 minutes.” – Jimmy

What if you could know when your number will be up? Would you want to? If you did know, would you tell anyone?

In a wild and woolly cross between dysfunctional family comedy and bloody thriller that shifts time as quickly as costumes (and uses five actors to play nine characters), playwright Marisa Wegrzyn explores that possibility in “Hickorydickory,” playing through Dec. 16 at Moxie Theatre.

Wicker’s Watch & Clock Repair in Evanston has been a family business for generations. Jimmy (John Anderson) owns it now, and though he spends most of his time fixing standard watches, he’s also adept at fixing mortal clocks.

Normally lodged behind the heart, a mortal clock looks like an old-fashioned pocket watch but tells the time and manner of your death. But sometimes it is in the head, forcing the owner to listen to life ticking away. The only fix is, well, surgery, and yes, you get to see a comic version of that here.

What’s fun is that Wegrzyn treats this premise not as gee-whiz sci-fi or a supposition that defies the laws of science, but as reality; for these characters, therefore, it’s just another annoying fact of existence.

Jimmy lives with wife Kate (Jo Anne Glover) and Dale (Erin Petersen), Jimmy’s teenage daughter by high-school fling Cari Lee (Samantha Ginn), who left the baby with Jimmy and disappeared.

Trouble starts when Dale gives a broken watch she’d found in her dad’s things to Jimmy’s Irish apprentice Rowan (Justin Lang), a reluctant participant shocked to find that blood spurts out when he opens it.

But the fun starts when Cari Lee, the owner of that watch, walks into the shop, a vision in a deliberately holey black leotard, T-shirt and black combat boots, with a plaid shirt tied around her waist. And here’s the kicker: she’s still 17 years old, with ’tudes and vocabulary to match.

Fixing or modifying mortal clocks becomes the central action here. It’s a wacky concept that will mess with your mind while it’s fiddling with the space-time continuum. But Wegyrzyn’s funny dialogue and Moxie’s fine production will leave you both laughing and perhaps pondering how your life would change if you knew your expiration date.

Ginn is the clear star here. Cari Lee is (you should pardon the expression) a role to die for, and Ginn plays it to the hilt, lighting up the stage whenever she’s on it.

Petersen is excellent as Dale, the morose 17-year-old with a ticking clock in the head who finds herself face-to-face with her 17-year-old mother. She’s also good as the young Kate.

Glover is reliably fine as both Kate and her mother Helen. Anderson does well as both Jimmy, Kate’s husband and Jimmy’s father Richard.

Lang’s young Jimmy is convincing, but as Rowan, his Irish accent sometimes goes a-roving.

This play which won the Wasserstein Prize (for young female playwrights) in 2009, so it’s surprising that this is only its second full-length production. That could be because it was written in three acts (practically unheard-of these days). Director Jennifer Eve Thorn does it in two, and keeps the pacing moving nicely so that the two and a half hour play fairly zips by.

Special kudos to Jennifer Brawn Gittings’ clever watch- and clock-jammed set and Jacinda Johnston-Fischer’s costumes (especially for Cari Lee). Bravo also to Matt Lescault-Wood’s sound design and Mia Bane’s lighting.

The details

"Hickorydickory" plays through Dec. 16 at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd.

Wednesday through Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

For tickets, call 858-598-7620 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.