Theatre Review: “Home Fires”
Home Fires, the season opener from Chamberlayne Actor’s Theatre, features an extremely versatile and talented cast. This is a show that pulls the audience in from the first scene with single, struggling mom, Nettie, played by Rebekah Spence, and prim, quirky, Maydene, played by Miranda Webster.
This Jack Heifner dramedy is set in a small town in Texas during World War II, when most of the men are off to war and the women are left to run the factories and keep the country going.
Nettie Morris struggles to raise three teenage children in this rough political and economical climate and is forced to take in several boarders to make ends meet. They dynamic between Nettie’s two daughter’s Susanna and Nola, played by Heather Yarbrough and Kate Vehrs, offers much comedic relief every time they appear on stage in the first act.
Susanna is the epitome of drama queen and her little sister, Nola serves as the perfect snarky foil to Susanna’s often exaggerated monologues. Nettie’s son, Sonny, played by Charles Belt, has faked an illness to keep from being drafted. Belt has talent beyond his years and portrays Sonny with the perfect balance of naiveté and impulsiveness that keeps the audience guessing. He is tempted away from his family by sexy, fiery, boarder, Maggie Wortham, played by Emily Turner. The more Sonny becomes involved with Maggie, the more his life falls into chaos until he has pushed away all the women in his life, leaving him alone and broken, and finally a draft deserter.
Among the other boarders at the Morris house are lesbian couple, Alice and June, played by Ashlyn Landrum and Amy Berlin. Berlin brings the character of June to life, hilarious, goofy, oaf-like, and extremely likable. Alice and June have had to run away together because of the rejection they faced from Alice’s family about their relationship.
Landrum and Berlin do an amazing job of conveying the pain many couples in their situation feel. Maydene Erwin, another boarder, was one of the most likable characters in the show, mostly due to Webster’s portrayal. Maydene first comes off as ridiculous but as the show goes on evolves in to a steadfast, kind, constant companion for Nettie and her daughters.
The gorgeous set, designed by Lin Heath, included many thoughtful details, for example, a squeaky couch and a simulated storm that draws the audience in. The costumes, designed by Elizabeth Nguyen were extremely authentic, even making sure the shoes were well worn, to highlight the tough economy of WWII in the U.S.
Director Toni Cacioppo’s first show with CAT was a promising way to start the season.
“Home Fires” plays Chamberlayne Actors Theatre, 319 N. Wilkinson Road, through Nov. 6. For tickets and showtimes, visit http://www.cattheatre.com/. Photo by Andy Resnick.
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.
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