The—uh—buzz has it that bees aren't supposed to be able to fly. Their fat little bodies protrude downward, making it theoretically impossible for their paper-thin wings to supply the necessary g-force. But fly they do, for better or worse, and they also hold a vital place in the natural scheme. British playwright Charlotte Jones banked on that in 2001 when she wrote Humble Boy, a story about one family's love and the rocky road to its discovery.
Jones uses bees as a metaphor for the exhaustive ties that bind the strongest family units. And while she trivializes that idea from time to time, she's also built some decent character studies and a life lesson that Carlsbad's New Village Arts is eager to exploit. The group's current turn at Humble Boy is more anecdotal than its usual fare, but it's still a good fit, marked by its gentle epiphany, by its extremely judicious use of space and, happily, by one of this area's most memorable performances of the last several seasons.Astrophysicist Felix Humble has interrupted his search for the theory behind the unified field (the supposed single trait common to all matter) to attend the funeral of his father. Amid the welcome that awaits him, it's a cinch why he left home in the first place. His self-absorbed mother and her boorish boyfriend assail his spot in the family pecking order nonstop and a cute, well-meaning ex-lover dredges up memories of the encounter that changed their lives. But a visit from a mysterious gardener eventually sets things right with this motley brood. The surrounding chaos, he submits, is nothing more than another ingredient that defines the family and the world of which it's an inextricable part.
The bee analogy is a stretch—sometimes it feels like an Aesop's fable, striking too simple a balance against the fiercely complex family dynamic. But director Kristianne Kurner sees that dynamic for the jumble of emotions it is, and she's smartly established a counterpoint by exploiting a limited number of traits in each character. Felix wears his vaguely savant mentality on his sleeve, and Daren Scott responds accordingly amid Felix's stutter and hulking frame. Flora (Rosina Reynolds) indulges her pampered comportment behind a pair of raven, oversize sunglasses; the mouth below it trumpets a diva's disdain for her son.
And make no mistake: This show takes its lifeblood from Jim Chovick as George Pye, Flora's significant other. Pye's made a career of intruding onto people's private space, physical and otherwise—and with an enabler like Flora, he's not about to stop now. Chovick brilliantly surrenders everything to this role atop Francis Gercke's set design, which makes the most of this venue's inordinately wide dimensions. This Humble Boy is well worth the trip to North County for several reasons, including a look at Chovick's masterwork, about which I can only muster a muffled click of the tongue and a sheepish grin of amazement.This review is based on the performance of Oct. 19. Humble Boy runs through Nov. 11 at New Village Arts, 2787-B State St., Carlsbad. $22-$26. 760-433-3245 or www.newvillagearts.org.
An ideal closer
Lord Goring (Rick D. Meads) is the most interesting character in Lamb's Players Theatre's current An Ideal Husband. In a very real sense, he's the play's conscience—just like Husband playwright Oscar Wilde, he calls Victorian society on its wholesale sociopolitical inequities, sometimes so subtly that his flesh-and-blood targets don't even know they've been insulted. He's got a lot to work with as he watches over this funny story of political misadventure, espionage and repentance.
An Ideal Husband lacks the catharsis we've been led to believe is on tap—for some reason, Wilde never asks would-be saboteur Mrs. Cheveley (Deborah Gilmour Smyth) to face the music after her failed blackmail attempt against contrite politician Sir Robert Chiltern (Robert Smyth). But the play's familiar themes lend themselves to the ensemble spirit Lamb's has cultivated since its founding some 73 centuries ago. This Kerry Meads-directed entry, the Players' 2007 season closer, is a very good period piece, especially amid its charming scene changes, which get some of the biggest applause of the night. An Ideal Husband runs through Nov. 18 at the Paul and Ione Harter Stage, 1142 Orange Ave., Coronado. $31-$49. 619-437-0600 or www.lambsplayers.org.