Review: Scenes from the street life of the young and untethered
Where its title might once have suggested security and comfort, “Homefree” takes on more somber contemporary implications in Lisa Loomer’s new play about youths slipping through the safety net, explored with considerable street cred through their stories, perspectives and vernacular.
Loomer’s mature talent for exploring social issues through intimate, tightly constructed personal stories is apparent in a polished debut staging from Noho’s Road Theatre Company. She doesn’t sentimentalize her subjects or whitewash their bad choices; she’s more concerned with understanding than judging them.
Her play’s vividly drawn anchor is a pregnant teen named Breezy (pitch-perfect Gabriela Ortega), a rape victim estranged from her dysfunctional family and living day-to-day on the unforgiving streets of conservative Medford, Oregon.
Confused and vulnerable, Breezy finds herself caught between the conflicting attitudes of her two young companions-in-exile. Her caustic, alcoholic new boyfriend is a petty thief unable to control his violent impulses (suitably fearless and aggressive as played by Barret Lewis, but coming off a bit too tidy despite a surface layer of grime).
In contrast, her thoughtful, sweet-tempered friend (sympathetic Lockne O’Brien) tries to maintain an ethical footing amid the homeless life he’s chosen rather than face his family’s intolerance towards his homosexuality.
In fine supporting performances, Donald Russell and Chelsea Averill first appear as menacing thugs from the violent wing of Insane Clown Posse’s Juggalo fan base, and later as a pair of wandering hippies who embody a preceding generation’s less turbulent mindset. Steve Apostolina and Elizabeth Herron capably portray various adult characters.
Under Michael Matthews’ hip-hop-infused, sometimes harrowing and always engaging direction, a quick episodic scene prgression economically traces Breezy’s journey from her harsh hometown to the superficially more liberal upscale community of Ashland.
Regardless of prevailing red or blue state sensibilities, though, there aren’t many welcome mats for outcasts.
“Homefree,” The Road on Magnolia, NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends November 8. $34. (818) 761-8838 or www.roadtheatre.org. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.
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