This past weekend I was lucky enough to see the world premiere of “Safe Home” at Shadowland Stages. The play, written by Tom Hanks (yes, that Tom Hanks) and James Glossman, has lived in …
This past weekend I was lucky enough to see the world premiere of “Safe Home” at Shadowland Stages. The play, written by Tom Hanks (yes, that Tom Hanks) and James Glossman, has lived in my mind since. I spent quite a bit of time Saturday night thinking about it and the nuanced way it explored just what it means to be human – the good, bad, ugly, hopeful, and beautiful. I had the chance to speak with lead actor Timothy Busfield a few weeks ago, and we talked about the overwhelming and uncanny power love has in the show and that is something I keep returning to when I think about “Safe Home.”
The show follows Bert Allenberry, played by Busfield, a genius and billionaire as he attempts to return to the 1939 World’s Fair to find Carmen (Eilis Cahill), a young woman he met on one of six time-travel vacations who he realizes he’s fallen in love with. Along the way he visits a small town in Ulster County, NY on Christmas Eve 1953, flashed back to the end of World War II in Europe, sees Babe Ruth and the Yankees play in Cleveland in 1924, stops by Nashville in 1961 and witnesses a refugee from Bulgaria try to make a new life in New York City in 1949. It sounds like a lot of story, but Busfield and his fellow castmates take the audience along on the ride and seamlessly slip between multiple characters and stories with ease. The sheer amount of dialogue, soliloquies and physical movement and quick scene changes are astounding. The play is ambitious to say the least, and, in my opinion, a pure triumph.
I truly cannot say enough about the skill of this cast. The seven cast members take on over twenty-three individual parts throughout the show and each gets a moment to shine. Angeline Rose Troy plays Bert’s fourth wife Cindee with a breezy attitude, and then swiftly switches to a World War II soldier under attack and slides into the role of disillusioned secretary Dorothy in 1949. Paul Murphy brings 1953 father, and wounded veteran, Virgil Buell to life and mesmerizes with his skill and control during a flashback to the end of World War II in 1944. Nikkole Salter guides the audience through the story as Howard, CEO of Chronometric Adventures, and inhabits the refugee Assan in 1949, bringing to life his struggles, joy, and heartbreak in a moving speech during the second act. James Riordan steals the show quite a few times as a pissed off Cleveland fan in 1924 who had the audience chortling, and as Virgil Buell’s best friend Bud, a man dealing with the traumatic memories of war, and what it can make a man do. There is no small role in this show.
The core three actors who keep meeting again and again are Busfield as Allenberry, Cahill as Carmen, and young Leyu Girma, who plays Carmen’s niece Virginia (as well as grumpy Greek diner owner Costas).
Girma is a star in the making. She holds her own with actors who have been in the profession longer than she’s been alive. At only 13, Girma blew me away with her range and skill and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of her in the future.
Cahill toggles between Carmen, and other characters, using her body language and voice skills to inhabit a 5-year-old on Christmas morning as well as a Greek sailor. But her role as Carmen is her crowning achievement and she floats through the play and Bert Allenberry’s life with ease. She captures the role with a timeless grace.
Busfield leads the cast as Bert Allenberry and shows us how a man with everything comes to realize there’s more to life than money or things. His portrayal of Bert after living through Bud’s experience in World War II is heartbreaking – a man shaken and broken and crying from the horrors of war. Busfield artfully portrays Bert as he falls in love with Carmen and imparts his urgency and desperation to find her again. He makes the audience hold their breath as he begs for just a little more time, and we wait to see if he’ll get his wish. When you go, bring some tissues because you’re going to need them.
In addition to the wonderful cast, the play utilizes video throughout the show to help transport the audience and characters throughout time. From news reel clips from the 1939 World’s Fair to footage of Babe Ruth, to photos of New York City in 1949 the bare set design coupled with the screen pulled you right into the show. And the use of the media in a smaller theater rather than on a Broadway stage was impressive and I’m excited to see if Shadowland Stages will utilize it again in the future.
No reviewer ever wants to give away the ending to a show – you’ll have to see it and talk to your friends about it later – but I can say that it’s well worth it. I walked away from the show thinking about those questions “Can love truly change us? Can it fundamentally change a person?” And realizing that while many of us look to the past with a golden hue, there are always tarnished and dark moments mixed in with the gold. At the end of the day, each of us has only one life to live and it’s human to always want just a little more time. And, like Bert Allenberry, perhaps we should all fight for the life and love that we want and find our own ways safely home.
“Safe Home” runs through August 7th at Shadowland Stages every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. Visit shadowlandstages.org or call 845-647-5411 to purchase tickets.
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