Safe Home @ Women’s Interart Center, New York

cast list
Michael Cullen, Ian Hyland, Cynthia Mace, Eric Miller, Erik Saxvik, Katy Wright Mead

directed by
Chris Henry
Safe Home is a wonderful surprise of a show. Set in the time of the Korean War, the play, which concerns a family of boys turning into men and features marketing art with a couple lingering in a pre-kiss moment – Safe Home could have easily turned into an allegory of current events in Afghanistan or Iraq. But instead Safe Home uses these cues to explore the dynamics of a family that has lost its way and needs to regain it.

It is a non-linear piece, jumping forward and back in time, but always set near the Hollytree house, usually in the dining room. But this dining room is a shell of itself, never used for eating, just as the family is a shell of its former self. The dining room is a home base for the family of three boys and their parents. A great cast and extremely effective lighting and projection design teams never let the audience lose track of where or when they are.
Cynthia Mace and Michael Cullen play the Hollytree parents, Ada and Jim, a couple that has grown apart and which is unable to communicate across the gulf of anger, resentment, and detachment between them. Somehow, these actors manage to display a history of closeness that has been lost without ever directly discussing it. These two veterans of the stage believably pull you into their story and never let up for a minute. Their performances are like alternating magnetic poles, pushing apart and pulling together in turn. Their lives have atrophied into a malaise of bickering, slights and the sparest touches of kindness. It is impossible to watch these two people and not be brought into the story.

Their oldest son, Eric Miller as Jimmy, is revealed in stages, as the layers of his character are peeled back and discarded, the same layers of protection the family has grown over the years. To his credit Eric never plays the character as an allegory but as a person, his anger, dejection, commitment and love is fully in tune with the character.

The other sons, Pat and John, are played well by Erick Saxvik and Ian Hyland, although Mr. Hyland is written as primarily an observer, the youngest son who gets to watch his older brothers growth by trial and error. Kathy Wright Mead pays a love interest, but is rather overwhelmed by the rest of the cast.

Chris Henry is a long-time director, who gets great mileage out of both the cast and material, written by Sean Cullen (currently performing in South Pacific at Lincoln Center Theater). Mr. Henry has turned an unassuming space into the perfect venue for this action, never obtrusive no space unused.

The show is not perfect and the final scene seems out of place in the show – or just a little out of sequence – but the play is a powerful piece, beautifully acted and directed. Take the time to see this new piece of theater.

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