Playwright Charlotte Jones’ words trip off the tongues of Langham Court Theatre performers in the laugh-fest that is Humble Boy – an ode to Hamlet, bees and botany.
The set, outdoors in the Humble family garden, designed by Doug Craig and Bill Adams with décor by Joyce Kline, deserves special recognition. No detail is too small, including small tufts of grass poking between stone steps, an apple tree, blooming roses, changing leaves and cirrus clouds, that together form a pleasant cocoon in the Cotswolds that houses a family in flux.
Felix Humble is played by Kyle Kushnir, who treads a delicate balance between brilliant and batty with a convincing stutter and quiet expressiveness that makes the character easy to sympathize with and follow in his quest to discover what it is that connects us.
As Felix, a theoretical astrophysicist, comes home to deal with the death of his father, he engages in what is apparently a life-long power struggle with his mother Flora.
Wendy Magahay, seen earlier this year as the mother in Carole Fréchette’s dark play, The Small Room At The Top Of The Stairs (Langham), is anything but humble as the vain, domineering Flora.
Flora reigns as the queen bee of the performance, delivering Jones’ sharp dialogue with razor tongue and exquisite timing – and doing it all dressed to the nines by costumers Jane Krieger and Madeleine Mills.
Humour abounds as we’re introduced to Flora’s “friend” Mercy and erstwhile suitor George Pye.
When it emerges that Flora and George have been lovers for years, Felix’s vulnerability rises and with it a tension that is quickly turned on its heels by the arrival of George’s daughter Rosie (Melissa Taylor), who we learn is Felix’s former lover.
Humble Boy reaches its logophillic peak at a garden party lunch with the entire clan that includes an uproarious Grace from Mercy which had the audience in fits, and some members of the cast struggling to keep a straight face.
Elizabeth Whitmarsh as the repressed Mercy, stole the show in several spots with her ability to combine a not-quite-all-there attitude with great comedic flair.
Bill Christie is wonderfully cast as brash and randy George, embodying a contrast to Felix’s intellectual deceased father James. In a broad performance of bum-grabbing, lewd remarks and a hilarious turn pissing on the posies in the garden, Christie’s George is the perfect foil for the highbrow Humbles.
Taylor and Paul Terry as the gardener Jim, round out the cast injecting a sense of calm, clarity with down-to-earth wisdom and advice for Felix that ultimately allows he and Flora to find forgiveness and reconciliation.
Humble Boy is on to June 27 at Langham Court Theatre.