Home to roost: empty nesters' turkeys

Western Gold's "Homeward Bound" hits home for Performing Arts Lodge crowd.

'Choose your poison.' Photo: Javier Sotres

At street level, 581 Cardero feels like many another Coal Harbour ‘55+’ aerie. Except the Performing Arts Lodge (PAL) caters mainly to 'mature or retired' performing artists; it boasts a fully equipped ‘studio theatre’ halfway up the high-rise.

Still, stepping off the lift for the opening night of Elliott Hayes’ “dramedy of manners,” Homeward Bound, I feel at first like I might have gotten off on the wrong floor and blundered into somebody’s ‘senior living’ apartment.

Set designer Glenn MacDonald has created a hyper-realistic replica of a sweet old couple’s living room – overstuffed upholstery, bland landscape wall art, well stocked bar cart, floral carpet, turned-wood coffee table. Beige hues dominate.

Dad (Howard Siegel) is lost in his crossword puzzle; Mom (Anna Hagan) pores over some travel brochures. Without looking up, as though idly turning over some Acrostic clue, they consider, ‘Which is better – murder or suicide?’ Their son (Jordon Navratil) drifts in, overhears, and wonders, bemusedly, ‘What are you two talking about?’

Cozy enough scene for Thanksgiving weekend: the tryptophan-lulled aftermath of a big family meal at Grammy’s house, with visiting adult children in attendance along with their respective mates and offspring. There’s still a champagne course ahead, and with it a big announcement promised.

But first, the in-laws must be recouped. The old couple’s daughter (Mia Ingimundson) has had some mysterious bust-up with her husband (Chris Walters), who’s stormed out into the night. And their son’s boyfriend (Seth Little) is “working late” at what turns out to be an Alcoholics Anonymous séance.

Which sets us up for two full acts’ worth of backbiting and banter. Along the way, we learn the back-stories of unravelling marriages, neighbourhood scandals, amnesiac binges, still-rankling sibling rivalry and lots more.

But, for all the dark subtexts, the dialogue is wickedly funny and the performances spot on. Siegel is blithely detached from it all, already halfway Gone to Glory. Hagan clucks her concern for her children, but manages to rise above the fray, as though hearkening abstractedly to some inner voice of reason. Navratil is defensively sardonic in the face of Ingimundson’s passive aggression.

Director William B. Davis intercuts these personalities with an impeccable sense of timing, doling out the intricate plot twists to build up to a surprise climax. By the time the final champagne cork pops, that innocent Acrostic question has taken on a whole load of extra resonance, much of it perhaps especially fraught for the PAL demographic that seemed to have dominated the opening night audience.

The wonder is that author Hayes should have such an acute sense of these eschatological overtones in his late 30’s, when he penned the script back in 1991. Perhaps a foreboding of his own death, barely a year later, mowed down by a drunk driver?

But audiences of any post-teen age can find plenty to appreciate in Homeward Bound. It plays on evenings through October 14th plus matinees Saturday, Sunday and again October 19th. Take the lift to the 8th floor and don’t be fooled by the stage set; you’re in very much the right place.

 

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