A down-home feel
The latest mainstage production at the Globe Theatre got underway this past Wednesday with Having Hope at Home. It’s low-key, but satisfying.
The plot of the play follows Carolyn Bingham and Michel Charbonneau, the father of Carolyn’s child. They live on a farm with Carolyn’s grandfather, who built the farm, and the family is expecting a baby soon. Carolyn has decided to have her parents over for a perfect turkey dinner and a long-overdue visit.
While this doesn’t seem like anything extraordinarily riveting or action-packed, it is much more than a simple dinner; as Carolyn puts it, it’s more like a “high-level peace summit between two warring nations.” This is quite a fitting description – conniving looks and snide remarks fly around the Bingham homestead. The family in Having Hope at Home is very much like a typical dysfunctional family; every character plays on each other’s vexations, and everyone seems to have a feud to some degree with every other member of the family.
As Having Hope at Home is set in a domestic environment, it’s no doubt that the play is highly identifiable for audience members. It also plays on two interrelated parts of one’s life – as a child, striving to please one’s parents, and as a parent, striving for one’s child to reach their potential. Although these two roles would seemingly have mutual goals, Having Hope at Home demonstrates they run on two autonomous agendas rather than a single interdependent one.
The production is made further relatable with the use of stock and predictable characters, an asphyxiating father, a judgmental mother, and a spiteful and freedom-seeking child; it’s easy for one to substitute characters from this play with family members from one’s own life.
Arguably the largest theme of the play would be honesty. It seems too often that families tend not to express their discontent with one another, and it piles up and keeps piling up until it starts to spill over as is evident with the Bingham family. The lack of honest and open communication is a large underlying cause for the substantial animosity amongst the Bingham family, and it’s shown that it takes a great effort to dispel this contempt.
Another, smaller motif illustrated in the play is the struggle for power within a family – that is, the struggle between William’s desire for control and dominance and Carolyn’s desire for freedom and autonomy. This is evident throughout the play on many levels, all the way down to where family members are seated at the dinner table. The tension and agitation of the events of the play are balanced out by the comedic nature of the characters, their interactions, and their dialogue.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the play was the character Russell Bingham, Carolyn’s grandfather. Jerry Franken, the actor that played Russell, did a fantastic job of presenting this dynamic character that could be sad and lonely, bitter and cantankerous, and amusing and witty all within short amounts of time and in such a manner that was not only realistic, but utterly hilarious. Quite often, the actors would have to wait for the audience to finish howling with laughter following some of Russell’s dialogue.
Another instance that worked quite well for the play was the use of parallel storytelling and lighting to determine which events the audience sees, and often employs a comical juxtaposition of events.
Having Hope at Home was a satisfactory production. There was enough tension to prove dramatic but also enough comedic relief to keep the play light-hearted and fun; it will surely entertain audiences during its run.
Having Hope at Home runs at the Globe Theatre from now until Feb. 13. Tickets start at $25.