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“Humble Boy” at Seattle Public Theater | Arts Stage – Seattle Rage

“Humble Boy” at Seattle Public Theater

You’ll learn a lot about beekeeping and the composition of the universe in this British play by Charlotte Jones. Although many drama critics have received it very well, I am not among their number. To me the play seemed contrived, predictable, and overloaded. But read on. This production, directed by Marcus Goodwin, has much to like—good acting and a truly well designed set.

Felix Humble, an insecure but brilliant astrophysicist has come home for his father’s funeral. Father was better at keeping bees than attending to his wife, Flora. She’s what might be called a “hot babe” with a recent nose job and a long-time boorish lover named George Pye. You will not be surprised to know that mother and son have some issues.

Living with the mother is an insecure grey-mouse of a woman whose long-term presence was a mystery to me. The boorish lover has a confident daughter who is a loving unwed mother and a woman with a history with the Humble family. There’s also a mysterious gardener who counsels the confused and sad Felix.

To Felix’s chagrin, he realizes that now that his father is dead, his mother, Flora Humble, is set to marry her lover, George Pye. Thus she will become Mrs. Humble Pye. If that’s the sort of word play that delights you, you and I aren’t on the same wavelength.


From L, Macall Gordon, Mike Dooly, Marty Mukhalian, Alyssa Keene, and Jason Marr in Humble Boy at Seattle Public Theater. Photo: Paul Bestock.

The action takes place on Richard Schaefer’s beautifully rendered garden with its tree roses, leafy branches and vines, and meandering entry paths. The acting is wonderful. Especially well presented are Mr. Pye. and Mrs. Humble. Mike Dooly as the vulgar, buffoonish George Pye creates a character so unaware of his glaring flaws as to be almost a pathetic creature. Macall Gordon as the widow Humble creates an offensive self-absorbed hussy who sashays about in skin-tight dresses, protecting her hairdo and her reconstructed nose. Yet she too is pathetic in her quest for eternal youth.

The entire cast plays well as an ensemble. There’s a catastrophic dinner party scene in this garden of paradise that is marvelously funny, yet beneath the humor is an aching sadness.

It won’t take you long to see shades of “Hamlet” within this play, and the musings on black holes and distant galaxies bring Tom Stoppard to mind. No question, playwright Charlotte Jones offers a plethora of thought provoking concepts here. But sometimes, less is more.

Through Feb. 15, Seattle Public Theater at the Bathhouse Theater, 7312 W. Greenlake Dr. N., Seattle, (206 524-1300 or www.seattlepublictheater.org)

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