Homefree

Michael Van Duzer Reviews - Theater
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The Road Theatre Company is presenting the world premiere of Lisa Loomer’s new play, Homefree at their Magnolia Boulevard space. Inspired by her observation of and work with homeless youth in Southern Oregon, the play focuses on three teens who have escaped or been thrown out of their homes. Breezy (Gabriela Ortega) is pregnant, Franklin (Lockne O’Brien) is gay and JJ (Barret Lewis) is too loud and angry to conform to even the negligent home life he fled. They spend their days in the park panhandling or finding other ways to get enough money for a meal at McDonalds. But this is no bucolic idyll. Life on the streets is rough, unpredictable, and dangerous.

 

When Breezy and JJ travel from Medford to Ashland (a half-hour drive, but a world of difference) they meet Shannon (Chelsea Averill) and Aaron (Donald Russell), an older and more experienced couple who choose to live “homefree” and find life in the shadow of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to be very much to their liking.

 

Director Michael Matthews has proved himself a master of guiding actors to detailed performances with characters who possess more passion than eloquence. This stands him in good stead in the world of Homefree where even the adult authority figures (Male characters played by Steve Apostolina and Female characters by Elizabeth Herron) are relatively inarticulate, or tend to speak in useless platitudes. He also creates a seamless scenic choreography with JR Bruce’s simple, but evocative, set pieces.

Ortega’s Breezy is believably vulnerable under her guise of tough girl, while O’Brien creates a sympathetic Franklin, whose generous spirit and sensitivity make him the inevitable victim of an attack. Lewis’ JJ deftly leavens the character’s overbearing nature with enough warmth to make Breezy’s feelings for him understandable.

Loomer’s ear for contemporary dialog is apparent throughout Homefree, as is her obvious empathy for her itinerant characters. But, unlike Living Out or The Waiting Room where she made her point by confounding audience expectations, the stories in Homefree feel very familiar. But perhaps her point is to remind us how sadly familiar homeless people have become to us. And how invisible.

The Road on Magnolia   September 18 – November 8, 2015   www.roadtheatre.org