Humble Boy, written by Charlotte Jones, is obviously based on the plot of Shakespeare’s famous Dane, Hamlet. The parallels are purposefully obvious. A young man comes home to his mother. His father has recently died. Mom is obviously conniving and already in a new relationship with a man that her son distrusts. There is even the young girl smitten with our hero and yet very troubled. It is filled with hints of spirits and enemies who seem to be friends. However, Jones has made this into a very funny comedy. However, Jones’ Humble Boy is more in the comedic style of Tom Stoppard or Alan Ayckbourn.
Silver Spring Stage’s production of Humble Boy is marvelously directed by Karen Fleming. The actors move smoothly across the stage, and Fleming allows her actors to create very round multi-layered characters that are both tragic and comedic. Fleming designs wonderful and memorable theatrical pictures.
The play opens with the 30-something Felix Humble (Joseph Coracle) arriving home after the funeral of his father whose death was sudden.We meet the dotty but verbally abused friend of the new widow, Flora Humble – Mercy Lott – who is played to perfection by Nancy Blum. Blum’s characterization of the dotty and fragile Mercy blooms as the play goes on, and she steals a scene in Act II when she allows us to see into her real psyche, full of bitterness and frustration.
Annie Caruso really captures the vivacious nurse, Rosie Pye. From the get-go she is sexy and funny, self-deprecating, and sharp tongued. Rosie is George Pye’s daughter, and her father has had a romantic fling with Flora for many years.
George is humorously played by Bill Hurlbut, who perfectly reflects the man who is caught in Flora’s web, but we see he is deeper than that with his love of his daughter. George’s and Felix’s bitter parries are full of biting humor thanks to the talent of both actors.
The two main characters, Felix and Flora Humble are masterfully reflected by Joseph Coracle and Susan Holliday. Both are very accomplished actors and bring much to their roles. Coracle playing the complex man-child and genius who can figure out string theory but has no real insight into himself or his parents is a deep and pensive as the Danish prince. Holliday is a shear delight on stage, and although we often hate her character, we wait with anticipation when she enters.
Craig Miller plays the mysterious Jim, the gardener, and he brings just the right ‘earthiness’ to his role.
William T. Fleming’s wonderful set design creates a tree from the unyielding pole in the middle, but has covered the stage with grass and created a slate patio surrounded by a British country house with glass French doors, a garden gate, brick walls, a huge garden and a bee hive.
Lighting Designer William O. Strein did a great job creating night scenes with the moon and all. The actors were well illuminated and the lights only enhanced the scenes.
Linda Swann’s costumes captures the wealth of those who live British countryside of the main characters. The gardener and Rosie, who is now a nurse, have costumes that reflect their contrasting stations.
Humble Boy is full of metaphors and symbolism, and is very much a modern- day Hamlet. It deals with family interactions with pain and humor. I don’t want to give away too much as finding all the hidden meanings is part of the fun, but you will need to pay attention to bees and keep an eye on the honey pot.
So buzz on down to Silver Spring Stage to see Humble Boy and enjoy these characters who are both stinging and sweet.
Running Time: Two hours and 20 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
‘Physics, Family, and Bees: “Humble Boy” Opens Tonight at Silver Spring Stage a preview article.