Do You Remember 1979?

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater
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Even if you were there in 1979, chances are you don’t have a clear memory, since it was a time of transition.  Former hippies were getting jobs, getting married, and growing up; aspiring actors were --- well, still aspiring.  That’s where we find the denizens of Greg Vie’s fondly remembered comedy, The Direction Home on view at the Actors Company just off North Formosa in West Hollywood.

Home recalls a fateful six months when a disparate group of roommates find themselves overbooked by one: the inexperienced, shy Steven (Jacob Barnes) winds up with the beautiful but level-headed Katie (Emilie Martz) as a bedmate.  The other pair of roomies finds an empty-headed but gorgeous Brad (Vaughn Eelis) with gay Ted (Amir Levy). Chris Caccarelli as Michael and Clair Glassford as Mimi round out the cast as a pair of point-perfect stereotypes.

Director Kiff Scholl observes in his notes, “I was immediately floored by how familiar (this script) felt.” The universality of experience that he sensed makes it less important that the play takes place in an actual 1979.  For instance, the beautiful, sumptuous set by designer Adam Haas Hunter is probably light years away from a comparable location to be found at that time. Rather than the cute, short, dresses so pervasive in the early 70s, by 1979 hems had dropped considerably but they are just not as sexy as those worn here by Martz and Glassford.  All the actors have been supplied with wigs to denote the period, but the ludicrous wigs sported by male members of the cast to indicate the shaggy looks of the period make it hard to get past the incongruity.

Director Scholl has done his best to integrate the actors into a cohesive ensemble, but there are difficulties that can’t be overcome. In this yet-another-variation of Larry Shue’s The Nerd, Vie recalls Ted as the relentlessly disruptive force to domestic tranquility.  Even though the character is as written, it’s hard for the others to counter Levi’s over-the-top portrayal of Ted.  Barnes’s gentle, realistic portrait of the central character, Stephen is no match. While Martz is the most even-handed as Katie, Eelis as Brad seems ill at ease onstage, and I wonder how “ok” he is about his nude scene.

Greg Vie seems to have taken the title of his play from Dylan’s No Direction Home, which appears to suit the play better than the more determined-sounding THE Direction Home. Six months may have been: they ended, not with a Bang, but a Whimper.

The Direction Home continues through August 18th,  Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 3:00 pm at the Actors Gang, 916 A N. Formosa Ave., West Hollywood 90046. All tickets are $30.00.  Call (323) 960-1055 or online at www.onstage411.com/Home.