May 26 2010 12:00 AM

Humorous and heartfelt, ’Home’ is a winner for Williamston Theatre

“Home: Voices from Families of the Midwest," now at the Williamston Theater, completes a trio of Williamston productions focused on Midwest life.

Written by Annie Martin and Suzi Regan and directed by Regan, “Home” follows 2008’s "Maidens, Mothers and Crones," which focused on women, and last year’s "Flyover USA," which dealt with men’s concerns. Approximately 50 people shared family stories that inspired the vignettes in "Home."

An ensemble cast of four actors portrays people of all ages throughout the show, which is more like a series of lengthy skits than an actual linear play. If there is a single common thread that ties these stories together, it is that they are all heart-felt. Some are heart-wrenching.

In “I Only Eat What My Dad Cooks,” a seemingly ADHD child (Hazen Cuyler) flies maniacally around the stage, wearing a purple cape, pretending to be Batman. We learn that his father is dying; irrationally, the child believes he will also die since he only eats what his Dad cooks.

The lights fade to black, and when they come back up it is another entirely different story about a gent in his early 80s (John Lepard), describing a lengthy physical inventory of his aging body’s aches and pains, then concluding that, yes — he is still alive.

Sandra Birch shines brightly as a sister greeting a beloved brother (Lepard) with post-traumatic stress disorder who is returning home from the war in Afghanistan. In another piece,
Maggie Meyer displays both patience and tenderness while attending to a
lonely, widowed neighbor (Birch).

I lost count of the total of stories after the 10th one, not because they were decreasingly interesting, but rather because they became more compelling, more expansive in characterizing the breadth and depth of families.

Perhaps the most poignant story of the night is “I’m Staying,” in which Cuyler portrays a young gay adult confronted by his partner’s mother (Birch). She is in denial, mourning the realization her only son will never give her a biological grandchild; this is one of the heart-wrenching ones.

Williamston Theatre pulls no punches presenting the many faces of families, as in the scene in which a father, alone with his two young children soon after a divorce, struggles with building an intimacy that was there before but was somehow lost in the wake of a bitter break-up.

There is also a great deal to laugh about in this production.

“Din, Din Dinnertime" presents multiple versions of family constellations and dinner conversations, each one separated by a wild song and dance around the dining room table.

In some cases, the performers simply tell the story with a song. Guitarist Nick Hinz is perched in a tree on the side of the stage, where he strums complicated highly melodic riffs to introduce each segment. The small stage at Williamston somehow manages to recreate the interior of a tri-level suburban house, complete with a tree fort.

One leaves the theater with a feel-good feeling, akin to what one feels while sorting through 40 years of family photographs.

’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