Sunday, March 04, 2001


Everyone remembers Maj. Frank Burns, the pompous, pedantic medical officer played by Larry Linville, on the classic TV show M*A*S*H. Linville lost a battle to lung cancer last year, but when alive, he developed friendships with members of the Winters Community Theatre.

As a tribute to Linville, Winters Community Theatre was given the opportunity to present the world premiere of a comedy, “Seeds,” written by Linville and his wife Deborah Guydon Linville. The show opened on Friday night at the Winters Community Center, under the direction of Howard Hupe. The opening was attended by Deborah Guydon Linville, several family members, and Linville’s longtime friend, Gary Burghoff (Radar in M*A*S*H).

“Seeds” is a modern day comedy which deals with the subject of artificial insemination. At its best, with a somewhat faster pace, it has the potential to rival a bedroom farce, with people coming and going out of doors and windows, double entendres, and secret sexual liaisons.

At its worst, the dialog stretches the bounds of credibility. With some tightening, it might have been possible to shorten exchanges so that they had a ring of truth to them, but alas, that was not the case here.

There are, in truth, many funny situations, and many funny lines. But a lot of the dialog concerning the secret revelations which unfold throughout the evening, just don’t work.

The action takes place during one evening at the apartment of Thomas (Chad Frazier), who is about to introduce his soon-to-be significant other Andrea (Gina Wingard) to his mother. Thomas has planned the perfect evening--champagne, pate, caviar, and dinner at a very exclusive Chicago restaurant. Andrea, anticipating a special “dessert” after dinner, has bought a silken nighty and the couple are looking forward to advancing their relationship to the next level.

Plans are disrupted by the unexpected arrival of Herb Darwin (an excellent characterization by Scott Graf), an eccentric and newly retired aerospace engineer. Herb claims that as a man alone, facing his waning years, he realizes that he has no one special in his life, and so he is trying to locate any children he may have fathered when he was earning money selling sperm to the “Onan Institute.” He claims that Thomas is his son.

It’s difficult to know if the problems with the ensuing scenes, where Thomas expresses ire and vehemently denies the facts presented to him are the fault of the script, or of the many line flubs on opening night. Suffice to say that they don’t work.

The group awaits the arrival of Thomas’ mother, Gloria (Diane Taylor), confident she will help everyone to sort out the truth. But it appears that there is more to the story than even Herb revealed and concerns a summer of love and a couple of flower children named Sunshine and Earth Dog.

This being a comedy, in the end everything is sorted out and the twists and turns of the plot have smoothed out, leaving everyone to live happily ever after.

There are nice little touches throughout the script, such as Thomas’ intermittent telephone conversations with the doorman, Carleton (a reminder of the old Rhoda TV series), and Gloria’s membership in the Daughters of Upstanding Heritage (DUH). But if Winters was the “out of town” tryout for this production, it needs a bit more reworking before it’s ready for the big time.

Ken Grubaugh, Bob Taylor, Larry Jutus, Howard Hupe and Gary Schroeder have created a nice utilitarian apartment scene for Thomas, and Jerry Cushman’s sound design, especially regarding Thomas’s remote controlled ambience enhancer is very well done.

Seeds runs through March 11 at the Winters Community Center, 201 Railroad Ave., Winters.