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Humble Boy
FUSION Theatre Company


Bruce Holmes
Charlotte Jones' Humble Boy is a contemporary retelling of the Hamlet story, but it's not quite the retelling you might expect. Rather than a predictable scene-by-scene remake of Shakespeare's classic tale, Humble Boy preserves some character relationships and themes of the original but with a few twists, much more humor, and bumble bees as a significant motif. Like Shakespeare, Jones uses her adaptation to explore deep, human themes: life and death, love and loss, dysfunctional family relationships. FUSION Theatre Company's production of the piece, directed by FUSION co-founder Laurie Thomas, continues through May 11th.

Felix Humble is our protagonist, played excellently by veteran FUSION performer Bruce Holmes. Set in the wake of Felix's father's death, the entire play takes place in the family's country garden, which is where, consequently, Felix's entomologist father died. Felix himself studies theoretical astrophysics, searching for a unified field theory, or the "theory of everything," as he puts it. Holmes' training and experience (including film and television credits and an MFA from the University of Washington) is evident in his performance. Portraying Felix's mother, Flora, is Jacqueline Reid, a founding member of FUSION with a plethora of acting and directing experience under her belt. Reid is perfect as Felix's appearance-obsessed mother, a woman who is always perfectly dressed, has just gotten a nose job, and who frets over wrinkles and gray hairs. While Reid captures the humor of Flora's character, she also infuses great depth into her performance, tapping into Flora's hidden troubles and pains. On the surface she is a shallow woman, fooling around with another man when she should be mourning her dead husband; underneath, we come to see, she truly does love and miss her husband. Perhaps her obsession with her appearance stems from the fact that, as she confesses toward the end of the play, she knows "no one will ever look at" her the way her husband did.

Rounding out what is truly a remarkable cast are Kelley Hazen, as family friend Mercy, who has perfected her character's nervous and overly enthusiastic mannerisms (a fašade to mask her own insecurities) and Gregory Wagrowski as George Pye, Flora's new suitor. From the accent to the delivery, Wagrowski brings to life a character whose unrefined manner starkly contrasts Flora's efforts toward elegance and Felix's poetic perspective on life and the universe. Then there is Rosie Pye, Felix's girlfriend from seven years ago; Acushla Bastible was cast as Rosie but had to miss the performance I saw due to health concerns. Instead, Blair Nodelman filled the role. As a retelling of Hamlet, Rosie is Ophelia if Ophelia were self-empowered and sassy. Nodelman lends good spirit to the role; Rosie suits her. Finally, we have Paul Blott as the mysterious gardener Jim, giving a graceful performance indicative of his previous experience in Shakespeare as well as numerous theatrical, film, and television credits.

I loved watching the cast tell this quietly moving story; by the time we came back from intermission, I nearly forgot I was watching a play and felt more like I was watching a real family interact with each other, working through their troubles and trying to find meaning and redemption in the midst of hardship. Director Laurie Thomas must be credited for leading such a wonderful cast and highlighting the actors' strengths.

In addition to the exquisite acting, the lighting and sound design is fantastic, a credit to resident FUSION designers Richard Hogle and Brent Stevens, respectively. The performance is underscored by transcendent, almost otherworldly string music, contributing to the feeling that there are larger forces at work in these characters' lives. The lighting backdrop for the set consists of thin strings of light illuminated against a black background, alluding to the strings we hear when they light up as strings for us to see. The effect is unique and beautiful, as is the entire play.

Humble Boy continues its run through May 11th. The Wednesday, May 8th performance is at The Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe at 8:00pm (TicketsSantaFe.org, 505-988-1234). May 10th and 11th the play moves to The Kimo Theater in Albuquerque, with performances both days at 8:00pm and a Pay What You Wish matinee on Saturday at 2:00pm (kimotickets.com, 505-768-3544). Contact the venue for specific ticketing information, as prices and reservation systems vary. For information about this and other FUSION productions, visit FUSIONnm.org.


Photo: Wes Naman

--Sarah Parro



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