Home is the Sailor, Home From Sea
nytheatre.com review by Amber Gallery
August 24, 2009
Home is the Sailor, Home from Sea explores the aftermath of the death of a boy named Gus on his oldest friends, who come home from college to attend his funeral. On the way home from the services, Jonny, Sam, and Thom—Gus's childhood "partners in crime"—have hit a deer on a dark road and are faced with the dilemma of how to dispose of its body. Their decisions on how they treat this death will be heavily colored by the loss of Gus. With the help of Thom's sister Kate and her friend Leah, who are also home for the funeral, they give the deer a proper sendoff while musing over the death of their friend.
Some key solid elements exist in this play, a first-time project for playwright-director Alex Coppola. First, Coppola creates an excellent dynamic among the five childhood friends. We've seen this kind of formula work before—three very different boys bound together by a long history supported by the kid sister of one of the boys and her off-the-wall friend. They've all known each other forever and the dialogue is easy and spirited. For this reason the comedy takes centerstage here and it works very well.
However, as a whole, the play feels incomplete. Conflict, the backbone to any good story, is absent here—although the friends argue and disagree a lot, the obstacles in the play are situational more than character driven. At only an hour running time, we do not get to explore all of the characters to their fullest so some of the more sentimental moments fall flat. And a scene on the road following the accident, with the stranger who offers to dispose of the deer, is underdeveloped. Spike McCue as the stranger seems miscast—the role calls for someone who could really make our skin crawl. I didn't buy for a second that the boys would be so scared of him that they would not let him take the deer off their hands.
The cast, for the most part, plays their roles with a natural ease that makes you feel at home with the characters. One of the most effective scenes is between Coppola, as Sam, and Janna Emig, who is a standout in the role of Kate. The scene is well-realized and touching, and one of the only times where Coppola did not have issues with his volume. (He's a fine actor, but it was difficult to hear him more often than not.) Suzi Sadler plays Kate's strange friend Leah to perfection, and David Morris garners the most laughs of the evening with his Thom, a sweating, hyper, stunted mess of a kid. Blake Lowell rounds out the company as Jonny.
With a little more attention to the heartfelt elements of the play and perhaps with another set of directorial eyes besides Coppola's, who surely had his hands full, this play has the potential to be great.