Parnassus on Wheels opens to the clucking of chickens in a bucolic setting somewhere in New England. Helen McGill (Amanda Soden) minds the chickens and sells their eggs, cooks the meals, and does whatever else needs doing around the farm. It may not be the life she wants, but it’s the life she’s got. And it goes pretty well until Andrew McGill (Jeff Gorham) writes a book on the joys of country living. It becomes a best seller, and his ego expands exponentially to the point of bursting.
And then the funny little Irish guy (Roger Mifflin played by Orion Bradshaw) with the cute wagon shows up while Andrew is off hoboing to research another book. Helen realizes she’s not getting any younger, and before you know it, she ditches the hens, and the road trip of a lifetime begins.
Parnassus on Wheels by C.S. Whitcomb enjoyed its world premiere at Lakewood Theatre Company on January 5. It’s a lovely, fun and funny new play based on Christopher Morley’s book of the same name published 100 years ago. Back then, Helen’s behavior would be considered outrageous. Today, not so much–although in some circles people still have problems with women making their own decisions.
The old-fashioned flavor of the play only adds to its charm. It’s a story about two wonderful people respecting and appreciating each other’s differences as they get to know each other–with several adventures thrown in. It also serves as a testament to the importance of books and reading.
People notwithstanding, my favorite character in the play is Parnassus on Wheels. Modeled on the traditional Irish tinkers’ wagons, Parnassus is tricked out with all the conveniences for early 1900s life on the road. It’s also a traveling bookstore–which is how Helen intends to make her living. It’s a lovely set. Parnassus and the backdrop are all one needs to tell the story
Cynthia (C.S.) Whitcomb is well-known in Portland area writing circles. She worked in Hollywood as a screenwriter for years, and now resides in Wilsonville. In addition to writing plays, she teaches script writing classes, evaluates and critiques scripts for other writers, and every year hosts a “Writing the Waves” cruise for writers devoted to script writing. (This year, participants are sailing to Spain!)
Directed by Stephanie Mulligan, Parnassus on Wheels succeeds as a family-friendly play that appeals to all ages. It runs at Lakewood Theatre through February 11.
(Poster by Lee Moyer Design and Illustration.)