May 19 2010 12:00 AM

Families tell their stories in Williamston production




In Muskegon, a frazzled family battles over whose turn it is to use the only bathroom in the house. In Madison, Wis., an elderly widow laments what she sees as the deterioration of her neighborhood. In Detroit, a babysitter is taken aback by the unusual lunch request of the boy she’s taking care of. In Iowa City, Iowa, a soldier returning from Afghanistan clings to everyday domestic details like the color and design of a birthday cake to prepare him for a return to suburban life.

These are a few of the vignettes authors Annie Martin and Suzi Regan have included in “Home: Voices From Families of the Midwest,” which is having its world premiere at Williamston Theatre.

It’s the third in a trilogy of “Midwest” shows originally conceived by Williamston artistic director Tony Caselli: 2008’s “Maidens, Mothers and Crones” was the first installment, and last year’s “Flyover, USA” was the second. “Home” brings together Sandra Birch from “Maidens” and John Lepard from “Flyover”; Hazen Cuyler and Maggie Meyer complete the ensemble. Regan also directed the show.

“Each of them has had its own sort of life,” Lepard said of the parts of the trilogy. “‘Mothers, Maidens and Crones’ had the same playwright and director we have now, so there are more
similarities with ‘Mothers’ than with ‘Flyover.’” “Flyover,” which
dealt with a variety of male concerns from unemployment to teenage
recklessness to finding the best chili, had “a lot more testosterone,”
Lepard said. “This one is a little gentler. It deals with relationships
a little more than the last one.”

In one scene, set in Kalamazoo, a mother (Birch) who’s initially wary of her son’s relationship with a “friend” (Cuyler) unexpectedly winds up sharing family secrets with the young man, including the fact that, as a child, her son insisted on wearing a “Xanadu”-inspired Halloween costume year after year. “Olivia Newton-John — on roller-skates!” she gasps.

Lepard has a poignant monologue in which a retiring high school teacher in Dublin, Ohio, both anticipates and dreads the “depressing bad-sheetcake party” he’ll be escorted to at 4 p.m. on his last day.

Like the previous shows in the series, “Home” was at least partly inspired by suggestions and anecdotes from Midwesterners, “but I think you could take it to the South or the West and have the same stories,” Lepard said. “They just happen to be in our voices.”

’Home: Voices From Families of the Midwest’

Theatre, 122 South Putnam, Williamston Through June 13 Thursdays and
Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.
Thursdays $18; Friday and Saturday evenings $24; Saturday and Sunday
matinees $20; Student tickets (with valid ID) $10; Senior discount (65
and older) $2 off regular ticket price. (517) 655-SHOW