note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Beverly Creasey
There’s nothing “humble” about Charlotte Jones’ smart comedy, HUMBLE BOY (at the BCA through May 2nd). It starts out like a well-heeled British farce, detours briefly into vaudeville, then emerges as a sweet, redemptive celebration of life. Director Diego Arciniegas makes the story of a beekeeper’s oddball family hum along, despite the changes in style and substance.
Jones infuses her play with clever allusions to Hamlet and although much is made of the son’s stalled career as a theoretical astrophysicist, the symbolism never actually gets theoretically physical, as it were. Most of the laughs come from plain, old fashioned, falling down, perfectly executed physical comedy.
The Publick Theatre’s production is blessed with one of the finest ensembles you’ll encounter this year. Tom O’Keefe is marvelously off kilter, as if he had trouble even keeping his balance, torn between a ferocious mother (Stephanie Clayman resplendent as the queen bee) and a seductive, sensible girlfriend (a glowing Claire Warden as his strong willed ex).
The playwright tosses a randy neighbor (a swaggering Nigel Gore) and a bumbling spinster (Nancy E. Carroll at her ditsy best) into the hornet’s nest, just so the smoldering sparks will fly. Carroll’s hilarious attempt to say grace over dinner, itself makes HUMBLE BOY worth seeing. Dafydd Rees as the kindly gardener makes everything bloom (in Dahlia Al-Habieli’s gorgeous, flower filled set)---unifying all the elements and tying up all the strings, as the physicist might say---at play’s lovely end.