Actor’s Express is presenting the world premiere of Keiko Green’s new drama “Hometown Boy,” directed by Rebecca Wear, running through Nov. 28.
It has been called a Southern Gothic piece; it is that, but it’s more than that. It actually defies categorization, because the play is funny, scary, creepy, and grotesque. This is not an easy combination to make a play dramatically compelling, and “Hometown Boy” doesn’t always succeed. But when it does, most notably about three-fourths of the way in, the audience gasps.
Artistic Director Freddie Ashley remarks that playwright Keiko Green is a Georgia native, a Japanese-American raised within Southern culture. “She has described feeling at once like an outsider and also at home in a culture of Southern hospitality.”
I mention this because the play’s leading characters are also Asian-American and have dealt with this duality all their lives. For example there is James (Ryan Vo), 25, who is returning to visit Walter (Glen Kubota), his father, who lives alone in a ramshackle house cluttered with—clutter. Walter’s family history includes an Arkansas internment camp during World War II. Yet Walter declares that he’s doing fine, despite the unsightly mess in his house and some unsettling signs of dementia, which he denies.
Why has James been away for ten years? I can’t reveal all the reasons, but he’s made it to Brooklyn, New York, where he lives and is a law student. How did he make it to New York and find the means to go to law school? Toward the end of the play we finally get some murky answers to these questions.
Meanwhile, he arrives on a rain day – it rains all the time, actually – with an attractive young woman named Becks (Michelle Pokopac), his girlfriend, who has a refreshing clarity and bluntness about her. James is often inexplicably irritable with her; you start to wonder what she’s doing with him. By the way, their sex life seems non-existent. Still more questions; you can’t escape the feeling that the playwright is sort of stringing us along here.
But three more characters, thankfully, start to perk things up: Philip (Chris Kayser), who is both an ex-mayor and an ex-governor, checks in on Walter to see how he’s doing. A nice guy, you say? Maybe—but don’t give him citizenship awards just yet. The play is full of secrets. Fortunately, Mr. Kayser is incapable of being uninteresting onstage.
And there is Collin (Daniel Parvis), a part-time bartender, who seems to be partnered with Sam (Allison Dayne), an ex-teacher. These two, along with James, have that electrifying scene I mentioned fairly late in the play. Mr. Parvis’ Collin, by the way, seems more at ease in his own skin than any other character.
But then all the actors are quite fine; the play itself, has a few too many nooks and crannies to sustain the intense interest suddenly generated by the scene I can’t tell you about.
Visit actors-express.com for tickets and more information.