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Where’s ‘Waldo’? A little lost

Ralph Waldo Emerson — not the bespeckled, striped-shirt wearer — is the focus here

The “Waldo” in “Call me Waldo” at the June Havoc Theatre is none other than Ralph Waldo Emerson, whom Lee (Matthew Boston), an electrician’s assistant, has taken to channeling from time to time. At first his unexplained, seemingly spontaneous outpourings befuddle his boss, Gus (Brian Dykstra), and wife, Sarah (Rita Rehn). But somehow Emerson’s metaphysical musings eventually free them — and through them, Sarah’s friend, Cynthia (Jennifer Dorr White) — to live life more fully.

Oddly, “Waldo” is at its weakest when it’s most focused on its central conceit. When Lee is spouting Emersonese, the play seems forced and a little leaden. But playwright Rob Ackerman has surrounded Lee with a trio of likable characters whose evolution makes for enjoyable, if lightweight, fare.

Foul-mouthed Gus is perhaps a little overdone in the profanity department, but Dykstra’s energy in the role is contagious and you can’t help but like the guy. Rehn’s Sarah is down-to-earth but not without depth or neurosis. Cynthia is the biggest surprise, functioning as a commentator to Sarah through most of the show, then stepping out of the background and blossoming at the end. Dorr White relishes the transformation.

And then there’s Lee, front and center, a catalyst without convincing catharsis. Boston is solid but Lee’s existential angst never quite rings true. It’s easy to get swept up in the breezy charm of “Call Me Waldo,” but it leaves you with a slightly hollow feeling.

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