SAFE HOME at Shadowland Stages is based on short stories by Tom Hanks

Timothy Busfield, Ellis Cahill, and Leo Germa.
Photo: Jeff Knapp

interior. stage. relaxation.

man
Do you follow it?

Women
I’m working on it, but it’s not immediately obvious.

This real-life dialogue that the couple sitting behind me overheard as soon as the first act ended brilliantly sums up the launch of Tom Hanks’ commercial play. safe house, On stage until Sunday, August 7, at the elegantly appointed Shadowland Stages in Ellenville, New York.

This does not mean rejecting all the effort and talent that has been invested in this play, or any other play, bearing the professional authorization of the Actors Rights Association (AEA).

First, let’s acknowledge the fame of the elephants in the room. If the public embrace was measured in dollars, Tom Hanks would be a billionaire. It’s as if the nickname “Beloved Actor” originated in his birth name. why not. I’m a fan. Who does not? Combine variety, consistency, longevity, popularity, credibility, humility and a good guy, and there you have it Mr. Tom Hanks.

Long book of short stories
Several years ago, a 400-page collection of 17 short stories by TH (Does anyone call him that?) was published under the title uncommon type. Marquee names are marketing themselves, and the book has predictably landed on bestseller lists.

the address uncommon type It alludes both to the author’s favored character studies – with skilful results, if mixed – and to his hobby of collecting (and using) those creative traces called typewriters, which appear in every story. Hanks has an enduring passion for the last year – focusing on the 20th century, which serves as the bottom line for safe home.

As Shadowland Artistic Director Brendan Burke told me, stage acting uncommon type It wasn’t Hanks’ idea. Instead, he was contacted by playwright James Glosman, who made something of a specialty of reconstructing prose into plays.

Hanks was intrigued enough at the prospect of seeing his on-page creations come to life on stage that he agreed to collaborate with Glossman. the result is safe homedirected by Glassman, co-written with Hanks.

With 17 stories to choose from, Glosman and Hanks decided to focus on three.

Explosions from the past
The play begins with tongue-in-cheek musings on time travel, based on Hanks’ short story “The Past Is Important to Us,” which also serves as an interstitial framing device for the play that takes us through the other two stories depicted in the show.

“The Past Is Important to Us” by Burt Allenberry, played by another notable name associated with the high-profile Shadowlands project — veteran TV and film actor Timothy Busfield (whom I had the pleasure of speaking, via Zoom, as Hanks, the man we got to know). In a successful TV series thirty things It is a cult of classic sports field of dreams humble and gentle as he is masterful in his profession; In his profession, this is an uncommon type, you might say).

Excellent and versatile cast
Starting with Busfield, whose natural acting is intuitively a lesson less for any actor, the entire seven-man cast is uniformly excellent.

Busfield is Burt all the time, but the other six members each take three to five roles, using a range of accents, with most of the characters played by the youngest actor, 13-year-old Leyu Girma, a dynamo, though at times her energy Expressionism betrays her intelligence.

Nicole Salter does Yoman as a storyteller, mother, and refugee. Particularly versatile in various roles – including veteran, baseball cheerleader and Greek diner owner – is James Riordan. Among the equally confident players are Ellis Cahill, Paul Murphy and Angeline Rose Troy. They make a great group that bravely delves into uneven materials and dramatic structure as best they can. Except for Girma and Troy, they are all members of the AEA.

Allenberry of Busfield is a billionaire inventor, living a high-end life, yet the nurses’ nagging impulse that his safe house may not exist in the present, but in the past. In search of something as elusive to him as the rest of us, he sets out to discover when and where this remote new home might exist.

world gallery or statue
As a customer of Chronometric Adventures, which sells time travel vacations, Burt’s many trips—figuratively depicted through stock film and still shots on a huge looming screen—taken him to the 1939 New York World’s Fair in “The Past Is Important to Us” ; to Ulster County (New York) in the second adapted story, “Christmas 1953,” complete with a raucous side trip into a crater full of flatbed bombs; And in the third story of the trio (Go See Costas), to a Greek restaurant in 1949 below Manhattan.

In contrast to the austere, multipurpose ensemble—dotted with a bit of furniture—there are two standout pieces: the evocatively designed 1940s Greek dinner and middle-class Norman Rockwelsk’s “Christmas 1953” living room. The scenic landscape was designed by Christopher Swader and Justin Swader.

While with Burt, we adopt Babe Ruth hitting the house in 1924, visit the Grand Old Opry in Nashville in 1961, witness the first public brush, in 1939, with televised photos, and take part in the 1964 World’s Fair (I remember well). Well, all this cool stuff is like car conversions, but for what purpose?

There is no Cohere there
As with the woman you tap at the top of this review, sometimes a member of the audience can’t be blamed for wondering, “Who’s first?” There are things happening on stage that we notice and think “that’s interesting”, but when it comes to continuity, there’s no coherence there.

Generally, safe homematerial source uncommon type It was greeted by reviewers respectfully and, in some cases, warmly and admiringly, with critical consensus that the seventeen stories add to the popular fare aggressively, meaning the opposite of daring or daring. To repeat her theatrical appearance, the group’s gay words are “safe.”

That might be fine on its own terms, based on the printed page. But being safe is a curse on the stage.

The stage exists to explore the unknown that holds the mysteries of life, as it is, in the world and within us.

The theater yearns to be inhabited by high stakes-driven characters and situations. The higher the stakes, the more convincing the theatergoers are of the dramatic rewards.

A theater veteran (as a playwright and art director) a friend of mine who watched the show suggested that short stories like this might play better as one separate work, presented sequentially but without a connecting device like time travel.

In the script’s attempt to make up for the loose ends that recur every time Burt travels to the 1939 World’s Fair to woo the woman he craves, there’s a sleight of hand solution in the last curtain. Unfortunately, the lack of clarity guiding the previous action reduces the reward value. What we witness at the end – effectively shown on the giant screen throughout production – is momentarily fun, as the audience telegraphs, but isn’t emotionally moving.

Part of the inherent challenge of safe hometo her crew, Its sponsors see the stakes as, at best, medium rather than really high. Characters tend to exist in their own worlds, deprived of motivation, introspection, and contact with other characters they are A common language of drama.

What does he want?
Timothy Busfield admitted this in our conversation. When asked how he prepared for the role of Burt Alnberry, the actor told me, “I’ve had a constant hard time questioning what he wants. I’m not sure we’ve mastered that yet. The actor has to figure out what we are to connect with the audience and the audience has to find that out, and we’re still there. “.

In this sense, Busfield, along with Brendan Burke, approaches Safe Home, which I attended on the penultimate weekend, as a work in progress. Burke allowed how “this is one step in the play’s evolution, and adjustments will be made.”

While neither Busfield nor Burke uttered the word “Workshop” to describe this production, some well-traveled theater artists, namely my aforementioned friend, might see it that way, except for the fact that he sells $40 tickets to the public, which responds to stellar billing. Hanks-Busfield by filling the 179-seat stadium to nearly its capacity for four weeks, 16 performances ending Sunday, August 7. (As of Thursday afternoon, August 4, the site only showed 20 unclaimed seats, for an 8 p.m. performance on Friday, August 5.)

Make no mistake. Kudos Burke, Glossman, and Shadlowland deserve the collective mental confidence for making this monetizable Hollywood affair, which I suspect any theater of this size, given the opportunity, would rush to entertain. This is unthinkable.

The biggest challenge for any game is keeping the audience entertained for two hours. If it goes to further development, safe home We hope that she will find ways to create more comprehensive entertainment for her audience that better matches the excellent reputation of its creator.

_______

Additional Production Credits
Costume design: Bettina Burley. A striking design by Jeremy Johnson and Jack Wade. Sound production design by Jeff Knapp. Technical Director, Peter Johnson. Production Stage Director, Nicole Caruselli. Assistant Stage Director, Brett Owen. Fashion Design Assistant, Miranda Graves. Director of Photography and Video Editor Truman Hanks.

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