by Margret Echeverria
The thrill of imagining time travel is that the phenomenon should be possible, yet none of us have ever met someone who has done it, so we can let our imaginations run wild. In “Safe Home” Tom Hanks brings his imagined time travel stories into a partnership with James Glossman. Together they throw a heck of a lot of ideas of quantum physics against a rambling flex time narrative landscape to see what lands.
Bert Allenberry (Timothy Busfield), on his first trip back in time to the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City, meets Virginia (Leyu Girma) and her aunt, Carmen (Ellis Cahill), who have spent a day fully immersed in the fair’s amusement park. Busfield is believable as Bert, a very wealthy man of industry who is bored with his life of luxury and technological ease. He helped build this world of conveniece. Now he wants to spend millions of dollars going back in time for some much needed entertainment and genuine connection with people who have not been swallowed up into the modern isolation which he helped engineer. His present day wife, Cindee (Angeline Rose Troy) is a character very much phoned in, so we understand the need for escape.
The chemistry between Cahill and Busfield is a sweetness we can feel when Bert asks Carmen if he may offer her and Virginia the opportunity to see the World of Tomorrow exhibit on his VIP passes. On his third visit – he is only allowed 22 hours in this spot in time during each visit – he gets it all right and is able to accompany his now beloved Carmen to witness the wonder in her and Virginia who can barely imagine 1961.
Not much more happens in that story.
We are never gratified with all the little ways these two may have fallen in love because the story hard lines some scientific laws that limit the number of allowed visits to 1939. The explanation is hard to follow. Because the story can’t just end there, we are ripped into other time periods, and witness other methods of time travel. But we still can’t go back to that love story in 1939.
This would be a fabulous book. But in “Safe Home” the story takes on too many directions creating gaps that masquerade as conflict, and these are never resolved. In addition the acting is not up to snuff. These professionals stumble over their lines, so the human connections have little time to develop in each scene. There is a marvelous bit at the end about how humans would just love to have some more time. Yes. I felt that. Time for what? Love. Of course.
There is a lot of good material to mine here. The Christmas Eve ten years after VE Day in which two soldiers, Bud (James Riordan) and Virgil (Paul Murphy) are characters back in their civilian lives. Virgil owns a shop and has a sweet family. Bud can’t settle so peacefully and is spending the holiday with a drink in a cheery bar. They speak on a midnight phone call revealing secrets of the heart only they understand. The Greek diner in 1960’s New York pays sweet homage to American Greek immigrants and their difficult to hide giant hearts. But these stories have no solid connection to the romance that almost hooked us in the beginning.
This would be a great series of books. This show is still in development. It could be a great play with just a little more development toward a gratifying resolution.
Shadowlands Stages offers a nice regional house with well maintained velvet seats giving more cushion than you would ever find in the big city and leg room that lets you say, Ah. However, don’t expect the back of house lights to go out during this production to give you a better view of the stage, and try not to get irritated by the actors who seem to have lost their diaphragms.
SAFE HOME by Tom Hanks and James Glossman, directed by James Glossman
WITH Timothy Busfield (Bert Allenberry), Eilis Cahill (Carmen, Jill and Chief), Leyu Girma (Virginia, Davey, Junior, Costas and Boy), Paul Murphy (JJ, Cabbie and Virgil), Jame Riordan (Barker, Herb, Bud and Demitri), Nikkole Salter (Howard, Dolores and Assan), Angeline Rose Troy (Cindee, Soldier, Mrs. Costas and Dorothy)
Scenic design by Christopher Swader and Justin Swader, Costime Design by Bettina Bierly, Lighting design by Jermy Johnson and Jack Wade, Sound and projection Design by Jeff Knapp, Technical Director is Peter Johnson, Production Stage manager is Nicole Caroselli.
Weekends through August 7. Shadowland Stages, 157 Canal Street, Ellenville, NY 12428. Run time: 2 hours with 15 minute intermission. Get tickets here or call 845.647.5511.