It was a surprising night at Western Gold Theatre’s opening of Homeward Bound.
The evening started off well enough, as one could relate to the tension of a family reuniting. As two grown children and their parents avoid topics while trying to connect, the awkward interactions in this dysfunctional family story made for some potential in Elliott Hayes’ comedic script.
Phrases such as “literalism is the curse of the middle class”, and a mother’s conversation with her son about how he is protected as a gay man because he is middle class, both struck a chord. But while these are issues with relevance today, they were also rare moments of resonance.
The family dynamic portrayed on stage wasn’t the only dysfunctional piece to this production though.
In the role of Bonnie Beachum, Anna Hagan required assistance with her text in the final 10-15 minutes of the first act. As her lines were called out from backstage, she repeated them through a lengthy and dramatic monologue. You could feel the tension in the audience.
Returning for the second act, hopeful things would take a turn for the better, Hagan now had her script in-hand. Even while holding her script, which itself was distracting, Hagan’s final monologue was virtually impossible to hear.
While Western Gold Theatre does staged readings as part of their season, Homeward Bound is not one of those productions. To see an actor going dry is one thing, but to then have to go back to the script on opening night of a professional production is inexcusable.
Perhaps Hagan’s issues opening night threw off the momentum for the rest of the cast, but the other actors felt flat and unresponsive as Hayes’ story unfolded into an outrageous soap opera. When major events occurred, there was little emotional response.
Under the direction of William B. Davis, it was also as if the cast was playing a game of freeze tag, where everyone stood deadly still while the person speaking took their turn.
While Hagan’s reliance on her script may disappear during the run of the show, to say the least, Homeward Bound was still a huge disappointment on opening night.
Homeward Bound by Elliott Hayes. Directed by William B. Davis. A Western Gold Theatre Production. On stage at PAL Studio Theatre (581 Cardero St, Vancouver) until October 29. Visit https://westerngoldtheatre.org for tickets and information.