Western Gold Theatre at the PAL Studio Theatre
My Two Pence
My Two Cents
By Liz Gloucester
Following a family dinner we join the Beachums in their living room. The parents have an important announcement; They have the champagne ready; However several revelations from their grown-up children and respective partners delay their progress and they have some barriers to break down first.
What ensues is a generally comforting display of familial judgement, love and support. Just before the intermission, word-smith mother Bonnie, played by Anna Hagan delivers a fitting monologue about the sanctuary that is the middle class – 'we aren't really affected by things, except taxes'; She states that this is what protects them – her son Nick is a homosexual however he is middle class first and drives an expensive car so that's O.K., that their daughter Norris' indiscretions are fine because she has a dishwasher and buys Reeboks for her children.
Director William B Davis has found a glorious balance in Homeward Bound. The cast toe a tightrope stretched between two chasms they could easily have fallen into; to one side over-sentimentality and to the other a gratuitous screaming match. They stick to nuance and sensibility which makes the play very watchable.
Perhaps unlike the audience back in 1991 when Elliot Hayes published the play, I found nothing shocking, nothing too 'out there' in this show- alcoholism, adultery and euthanasia - these social issues are thankfully and healthily all out of their respective closets. The stakes were never high and to this end it perhaps is not an 'important' play. It honestly left me hopeful for humanity that family’s can exist that support each other so deeply. It made me feel cosy.
I sat in my seat with some trepidation as I had read that one of the cast members was struggling with the weight of words and running dry. I had never experienced either watching or performing in a show that required one of the troupe to be prompted. It should never happen, especially not in a professional production with hundreds of hungry out-of-work actors. It happened twice. It was not a big deal for me. I think that the cast at this stage in their run had become accustomed to the circumstances and rose to support with bravado.
Performances on the whole were decent. I found the family dynamic to be believable and the comedy spot-on.
By Kelly Moncton
Homeward Bound is a family drama well worth seeing. The interesting script, technical polish, and strong performances all combine to create a satisfying evening. The intimate PAL theatre was dominated by a life-sized living room, complete with moldings and furnishings. The detail and normalcy helped set the scene beautifully, and the other cues and technical details moved smoothly.
The play started with family squabbles that seemed very familiar. Child-rearing discussions and stilted ‘catching-up’ conversations often hid seeds that Eliot Hayes planted for later growth. As the tensions escalated, I appreciated how the story continued to flow in a natural way. Small distractions over details would derail the bigger picture, and provide some humour for moments that became too earnest. Hayes chose to have the matriarch, Bonnie, explore some bigger ideas in a conversational way that helped keep topics like middle-class comfort from feeling preachy.
As Bonnie, Anna Hagen took on upset children and family dramas with only mild concern. It was impressive to see how that easy-going attitude played out at the more dramatic end of the play, with her character still striving to hold things together. As the father, Howard Siegel was even more calm and cool, with solid timing and delivery of his quips and jabs. Mia Ingimundson had easily the most abrasive character in Norris, a woman who seems to stir up trouble easily. Ingimundson balanced the anger and passion with a humanity and bewilderment that kept her character from feeling like a simple villain. Her brother, Nick, was given less fiery speeches, but often needed to hold things together like his mother. Jordan Navratil portrayed this necessary calm well, feeling reasonable without becoming robotic. His misunderstanding with his brother-in-law, played by Chris Walters, was a great burst of energy in the first act. Walters brought a great sense of misunderstood victim to his character, and his conflict with his wife felt inevitable. The other son-in-law appears later in the show, and Seth Little felt like an outsider trying to fit in and understand. It was a nice energy to balance out the intensity of the second act.
In a time full of dramatic political news and superhero movies, it was refreshing to see a story about six normal people struggling with realistic concerns. It may not have epic scope, but the mirror Homeward Bound holds up to its audience can provoke more self-reflection and change.