- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- STAGE STRIP : Rosie Pye (Britta Swearingen) attempts to seduce Felix Humble (David Norum) in his mother’s English garden.
If the material is, perhaps, a bit forced, Carlin’s production achieves a casting feat rarely accomplished in local theaters; each actor is exactly suited to his or her role. The lead, David Norum who plays distracted astrophysicist Felix Humble, is a newcomer to the Brickyard Theatre. The character’s helpless boyishness comes so naturally to Norum that the fact of his acting falls away. In a combative environment the best defense that Felix can conjure is to clutch a honey pot filled with his father’s ashes and compare himself to Romanian orphans. Humble Boy is filled with unfortunate discoveries for Felix—the parentage of an ex-lover’s daughter, the fact of his mother’s infidelity to his now-deceased father—and his reaction is almost always to plunge himself into a cold, abstracted world of theorems and laws. Once or twice he manages to deliver a solid jab to his antagonist, his mother’s lover, the roguish George Pye, as when he mock-gallantly insists, “It troubles me—my mother being referred to, even affectionately, as a rabbit.”
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- CHANNELING HAMLET : Felix (David Norum) rebels when his mother (Kathleen York) is openly courted by George Pye (Dwain Edwards) mere weeks after his father’s death.
Flora’s friend and devotee, Mercy, is her match comically if not in strength or wit. Rosh Wright brings the character to hysterical life, also with the advantage of her own accent. But her humor springs from her character’s inability to recognize the hostility and cruelty inherent in her friends’ behavior. She happily chatters about the beautiful flowers in the Humbles’ garden, somehow fails to detect Flora’s insults, and manages a side-splitting emotional breakdown in the middle of Flora’s garden party gone sour. After weeping silently into her wine glass, unnoticed in the corner, she howls out, “It’s people like you who give people who live in the country a bad name!” She follows this up with a prayer that includes recriminations against her fellow dinner guests and God, before sinking her tiny figure to the table, exhausted by the unexpected emotional outpouring.
Rounding out the cast is the insignificant, but kind, gardener Jim, played by John Battalino. He turns out to be a bit more complicated than his casual demeanor suggests but Battalino’s own gentleness radiates through his character.
Overall the content lacks some indeterminate human quality, the very ingredient that made last year’s show of Picasso at the Lapin Agile such a moving theatrical experience. It may be that Jones was so preoccupied with her theories and metaphors that the play’s elaborate construction never went beyond the frame, and her attempt at a sweet wrap-up grasped wildly at the heartstrings, but failed to actually tug them. Like the English garden it is staged in, Humble Boy is comprised of layers, meaning that if the content falls flat, there’s always the acting to support it. ∆
Arts Editor Ashley Schwellenbach has two and a half layers, and one is filled with rum. Send honey to firstname.lastname@example.org.