Runaway Home - Theatre Review

By Bill Garry

Camille Spirlin and Maya Lynne Robinson
Photo: Ed Krieger
"Runaway Home" is a political play that goes down easy like a sitcom, but leaves the audience with new awareness and renewed sympathy for the lingering tragedy of post-Katrina New Orleans.

The play brings us back to the devastated Lower Ninth Ward, a proud African-American neighborhood, three years after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. Families are still uprooted. Homes that may or may not be abandoned (is a house abandoned when the family has been forcibly relocated to another state and can't afford to come back?) are being bulldozed by the government.

Living in the debris, trying to pull their lives back together, are 14-year-old Kali (super-talented Camille Spirlin) and her mother Eunice (an authentic Maya Lynne Robinson). Kali is a super intelligent "vocab all-star" who raps, rhymes, steals and scams her way around the neighborhood. Eunice, a simple, average woman, is in a constant state of overwhelm -- dealing with her troublesome teenager, the tragic loss of her mother and boyfriend during the storm and her similarly overwhelmed neighbors.

Those neighbors include schoolteacher Shana (no-nonsense Karen Malina White); traumatized Mr. Dee (a superb Jeris Poindexter); anxious and depressed bodega owner Armando (a conflicted Armando Rey); and "gutting and mucking" construction worker Lone Wolf (a hyper Brian Tichnell). Memories of lost boyfriend Tat (a buoyant Leith Burke) stoke the plot and are woven throughout the show.

Leith Burke and Maya Lynne Robinson

Photo: Ed Krieger
Despite a topic filled with frustration and heartache, playwright Jeremy J. Kamps focuses on the characters and their relationships, making the show accessible, fast and funny. There are a few dark twists, but Kamps keeps it light. In a community meeting scene, for instance, Shana's powerful speech (criticizing FEMA and asking "who is really doing the looting?") is tempered by Lone Wolf and Mr. Dee's comic business.

Speaking of Mr. Dee, Jeris Poindexter's performance of this elderly neighbor is a standout. From the moment the mumbling old man steps on stage, Mr. Poindexter raises the play's stakes and its level of dignity and pathos. His Mr. Dee movingly represents the confusion, anger, faith, hope and humanity of the people of New Orleans.

"Runaway Home" is playing through November 5 at the Fountain Theatre.

Posted By Discover Hollywood on September 21, 2017 12:00 pm | Permalink