Volume 92, Issue 81
Wednesday, March 3, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Bound for therapy
Photo by Elisabeth Feryn
By Terry Warne
Picture a mother who drops non sequiturs into conversation, a father who seemingly exists on a separate plain, a selfish self-absorbed son and a daughter who desperately tries to bring all of these elements together. Sound familiar?
Elliott Hayes' play, Homeward Bound, brilliantly dissects and exposes the dysfunctional family dynamic. The play begins with the Beachams, a "typical" family, retiring to the living room for some after-dinner conversation. From there, the Beacham family must contend with its daughter's failing marriage, her husband's absence, the son's homosexuality, his partner's alcoholism, the mother's flakiness and the father's wish to die. What is most refreshing is despite the heavy-handed subject matter, the play is a comedy and a very funny one at that.
Homeward Bound benefits from scathing social observations in the tradition of Oscar Wilde. The mother, played by Maralyn Ryan, is responsible for many of these diatribes. Her assault on what it is to be the middle-class is brilliant. She concludes her rant by telling her son he may well be a homosexual, but he is a middles-class homosexual. And, because of that, he will always be defined as middle-class first.
Later in the play, she hesitates to admit she knows what a blowjob is because of her age, the end result being a hilarious description of the act.
The daughter, portrayed by Brenda Robins, is also given a chance to make some biting comments, all directed towards her family. She fluctuates between valiantly trying to bring the family together and erupting in frustration over the family's unwillingness to cooperate.
One memorable scene involves the daughter trying to participate in solving her father's crossword puzzle. Not wanting any help, he proceeds to invent his own clues, which the mother begins to solve. The daughter explodes in exasperation, berating her mother for being involved with the ridiculous exercise.
At the centre of Homeward Bound are some important moral questions presented for consideration. The father, played by Gary Reineke, wants to die. He has brought his family together in order to tell them this. The second act of the play revolves around the children dealing with this information and desperately trying to change their father's mind.
At one point they try and prevent him from using the bathroom, frightened he will kill himself. Presented with the father's reasons for making this decision, the audience is left to ponder the moral implications and wonder how they would react in a similar situation.
The play is strongly performed by its veteran cast. The characters are believable and the portrayals are convincing. Admittedly, there are moments when cast members seemed to be anticipating their lines, as well, some lines are stumbled over.
The only other issue is the somewhat bewildering conclusion. Devoid of resolution, the play ends in a supernatural fashion which does not seem to fit with the preceeding events and tone of the narrative. Hayes' motives are unclear in this respect, leaving one to wonder whether he was trying to make an artistic statement.
Regardless of design, the play ends in a fashion which is less than overwhelming. However, the strong writing and performances give Homeward Bound the monopoly on dysfunctional fun.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999