BWW Review: Loveable Characters and Lots of Laughter in Good Theater's HOMER BOUND
For the second offering of the Good Theater's ambitious 2018-2019 season and its one hundredth production in the company's existence, Brian P. Allen has mounted the world premiere of a new play by Maine writer Karmo Sanders. Homer Bound is a rollicking, folksy comedy populated by loveable characters and guaranteed to have the audience split its sides with laughter. Directed with panache by Sally Wood and performed by six excellent actors, Homer Bound is a romp from start to finish!
The premise for Sanders' play is a well-tried one: the comedic complications surrounding a shot gun wedding, yet, she manages to make the situation with its twists and turns seem fresh and genuine. Sanders' ear for the Maine country dialect is unerring and her over-the-top riffs on folk expressions - particularly Homer's swearing tirades - provide some of the most amusing moments in the play. Moreover, her characters are each finely drawn, quirky but entirely embraceable, and they all come together to create a warmly amusing and dysfunctional family unit. Her best creation is the title figure, the old fisherman Homer Meserve whose eccentricities contain a kind of wisdom. The action moves swiftly, and the penultimate scene with the pregnant bride, her frantic fiancé, his brother and Homer delivers sheer, sustained hilarity.
Director Sally Wood sets just the right tone for the cast, cleverly balanced between exaggeration and naturalness. She manages a gag like the best man's repeatedly dropping the ring with perfect timing, and her "choreography" for the play's climax is breathlessly clever. Steve Underwood's set design makes masterful use of the small stage by transforming the act one interior of the bride's home into the act two rustic seaside shack and yard where Homer lives. Both are handsome to look at and well dressed with realistic props by Jared Mongeau. Underwood's sound design also helps to create the ambiance with his selection of country music. Iain Odlin's lighting creates the colors and feeling of the Maine woods with dark pines silhouetted against a magenta sky, contrasted with the warm orange interior light. Justin Cote contributes the characterful costumes and adds a bit of wit especially with the very pregnant bride's wedding dress. Technical Director Craig Robinson manages the scene shifts with choreographed precision while Stage Manager Paul Haley jeeps the fast-paced show on the rails.
The cast coalesces into a skillful ensemble. Grace Bauer is the no-nonsense mother-of-the-bride, Mary, who spars good naturedly with her more flamboyant sister, Lena, played with just the right mix of coquetry and vampishness by Kathleen Kimball. Casey Turner makes a sympathetic, clearly conflicted pregnant bride, Lila, while Thomas Ian Campbell as her terrified groom, Charlie, is appropriately amorous and reluctant by turns. Jared Mongeau turns in a winning portrayal of the bumbling brother Ronnie, and Steve Underwood brings the crusty old Homer to life with vivid relish. The entire cast is to be complimented for their pitch perfect handling of the Maine dialect, but Underwood, who has the most verbally complex speeches, demonstrates true verbal virtuosity.
Coming on the heels of the Good Theater's opening production, the searing drama The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Homer Bound not only offers a welcome contrast, but speaks to the versatility of this company. Presenting a new work that has so many merits and so much potential for continued stage life is also a major accomplishment. Happy 100th, Good Theater!
Photographs courtesy of the Good Theater
Homer Boundruns from November 7-December 2, 2018 at the Good Theater 76 Congress St., Portland, ME 207-835-0895 www.goodtheater.com