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Review: HOMETOWN BOY is Beautifully Grotesque at Actor's Express

The world premiere runs through November 28th.

Review: HOMETOWN BOY is Beautifully Grotesque at Actor's Express

Welcome, ladies and gentlefolk, to the modern-day revival of Southern Gothic. HOMETOWN BOY at Actor's Express is a beautifully grotesque show about how secrets are like leeches you can't remove until you've faced them. Full of turmoil, lies, and revolting truths, HOMETOWN BOY challenges not just your perception of the South, but your place in it.

First things first, it felt so good to be back in a packed theatre seeing a brand new show. World premieres are special; attending them means being a part of new voices taking the stage to be heard for the very first time. While Broadway and West End shows are world-renowned, Atlanta is one of the only places you can watch a show about the South in the South. This is where great plays start - in your own backyard.

There should be a content warning for this show. I won't spoil anything, but I will say that this show contains intense themes that could potentially be triggering for those struggling with sexual trauma. It holds no punches, and sometimes life can get really dirty.

Here are a few resources I recommend for anyone who may be currently struggling with sexual abuse, sexual trauma, or just know that something is wrong but don't know where to get started:

RAINN (https://www.rainn.org/)
List of National Hotlines (
https://victimconnect.org/resources/national-hotlines/)
National Sexual Violence Resource Center (
https://www.nsvrc.org/find-help)

Keiko Green's return to her Marietta roots is an exhilarating voyage into the Southern Gothic genre. Her dynamic writing, pressure-cooker sense of tension, and the secrets she fills this show with are so fascinating. It's impossible to look away. Seeing the South through new eyes brings to the stage the truth of how diverse and beautiful the South is. Yes, it is a place full of bloodied hands - but it is also where a lot of people call "Home." Another thing Green does brilliantly in her show is toy with the concept of "true villains," and whether or not they can be forgiven - if they are real.

Ryan Vo as James presents a pained portrait of internalized trauma - how so often right when we need ourselves the most, we fail. His delicate balance of hope, grief, and rage as he faces living demons leaves you equally heartbroken and infuriated with him. Vo's external machinations of his character's internal monologue are fantastic to watch.

Michelle Pokopac's commitment to her character's truth brings an eerie verisimilitude to her character, Becks. You know this woman - perhaps you have friends like her. And it's because you know her that Pokopac can win you over immediately and make you care about Becks as if she is your friend.

Walking as if wearing secrets as slippers, Glenn Kubota's Walter is an old, stubborn, and proud man who clings to his castle as greedily as Smaug to his treasure. Tough on the outside, Kubota occasionally gives us a glimpse into Walter's mind; and when he does, the magnitude of his feelings falls like an avalanche and it's a wonder he hasn't drowned yet.

As charismatic as always, if not more so this time, Chris Kayser takes the stage with ease as Philip. A natural politician, Kayser breathes real life into the man with the money. While not obvious, violent, or malicious, Allison Dayne's Sam is sinisterly selfish. Dayne perfects the Southern Charm veneer as she pushes away Sam's past as hard as she possibly can.

Finally, Daniel Parvis plays into a softer side of himself that is at times a spiritual experience to watch. With perfect candor, Parvis delivers a passionate defense of people who have made mistakes and deserved second chances. His character, Collin, is one of the few people I can believe have genuinely changed themselves for the better.

With bits of stuff and trash shoved into every corner of the set, I was surprised at how flexible it was. Such intense and realistic staging sometimes made the transitions lag as whole houses were torn apart and built again. Every moment in between scenes added more and more weight to what the characters left unsaid, and I found myself itching with anticipation. Clever lighting accompanied the fleshed-out set as practical lights dotted the character's faces with saturated hues.

The costumes were equally as effective and transitional. In the show's modern-day setting, the characters' clothing blended into the story, bringing the actors' performances out front and center. New days meant new outfits, and that thoughtful attention to detail made the story feel real.

In the end, everyone faces the urge to go home. The question is - is it worth it? Keiko Green's thrilling return to her home here in the South through the eyes of her flawed characters in HOMETOWN BOY at Actor's Express is a must-watch this season.


HOMETOWN BOY runs through November 28. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM with no show on November 25. Tickets start at $20 and may be purchased online at actors-express.com or by calling 404-607-7469.



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From This Author - Ella Outlaw

Ella Outlaw is a Mississippi Writer, Atlanta Producer, Atlanta Theatre Critic, and Your Friendly, Neighborhood Tarot Reader. 

IG: ella_outlaw_

Twitter: ella_outlaw_

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