By Marissa WegrzynHickorydictory by Marissa Wegrzyn

Directed by Russ Tutterow

At Chicago Dramatists, Chicago

Quirky dark comedy chimes into a ‘timely’ work

The setting is a clock and watch repair shop on Chicago’s North Shore (terrific set designed by Simon Lashford). A middle aged man – Jimmy (Thomas Gebbia) is busy repairing clocks and watches.  His daughter Dale (Cathlyn Melvin) – a moody 17 year old announces she is not going to college. She thinks she has little time left on earth. Does she know about mortal clocks – which  are physical  watches everyone has implanted behind the heart that can tell us precisely the time of our deaths?

Hickorydictory by Marissa Wegrzyn

When Dale finds an old non-working pocket watch in her father’s closet, she gets the apprentice watch repairman, Rowan (Tyler Ross) to attempt to fix it. Things go astray at this point since the old watch is Dale’s mother’s mortal clock that comes with complications that renders the mother, Cari Lee (Joanne Dubach), a perpetual 17 year old and deeply effects Dale’s timeline.

Hickorydictory by Marissa Wegrzyn

We learn that Jimmy comes from a long line of clock/watch repairmen possessions knowledge of the ancient art of mortal clock removal that comes into play when one’s mortal clock rests in one’s head. Jimmy and his father Richard together with Jimmy’s mother, Helen (Gail Rastorfer), became experts in removing mortal clocks but they are hesitant to change the time settings. But circumstances make it necessary to attempt mortal clock repairs when Cari Lee arrives back at the clock/watch repair show after 17 years. Playwright Marissa Wegrzyn’s storyline contains clever twists with insights into the effects and bonds of maternity. Are we bound together by love or genetics or mortal clocks? What sacrifices will a mother make for her child and what is a mother-child relationship really? Is it rooted in birth or nurturing?

This quick-paced and totally intriguing three act, 2 hour and 50 minute dark comedy features empathetic characters put into situations rich in fantasy using elements of magical realism. We see the complex intricacies of human relations and how love can ultimately triumph . We experience hilarious physical comedic scenes that contain much blood-and-guts as the mortal clocks are removed both from the head and the chest. Blood flows! The mixture of fantasy/magic with realism serves this smart free-flowing show well.

I was impressed with this cast that finds most actors playing two roles. Thomas Gebbia and Gail Rastorfer lead with strong performances. Joanne Dubach’s Cari Lee is precious while Cathlyn Melvin’s Dale and Young Kate is heartwarming. Tyler Ross sports a rich Irish brogue then turns into a charming teen as Jimmy. This cast works hard to deliver the mixture of realism and magical fantasy. We care and accept Wegrzyn’s innovative concept that surely gets us thinking about our own mortality. We fantasize on what would happen if we knew when we were to die? Hickorydickory offers some clues.  Don’t miss this marvelously quirky and highly imaginative new work from one of Chicago’s major talented young playwrights. This show will grab you.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: May 13, 2011

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the Hickorydickory page on

At Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL,, tickets $32, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 50 minutes with 2 intermissions, through June 12, 2011

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