In her program notes for Homefree, which is getting its world premiere in director Michael Matthews’ ravishing, high-velocity production, playwright Lisa Loomer writes about seeing the hoards of hippie-ish panhandlers headquartered in Ashland’s Lithia Park as she attended the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. “Who are these kids?” she asked.
Like a reporter writing an in-depth human-interest feature, Loomer embedded herself with the park vagrants. Her answer is this affecting days-in-the-life dramatic composite focused on a trio of thrown-together street comrades with nothing left to lose, who live for today in an America where they have no future.
Breezy (a compelling Gabriela Ortega) is a teenage runaway whose four-month pregnancy by a molesting stepfather serves as the narrative’s ticking clock. Her boyfriend J.J. (a forceful Barret Lewis) is an emotionally abused skinhead musician harboring a deep rage for anything smacking of home. Franklin (the fine Lockne O’Brien) is a Christlike gay teen fleeing a Christian “same-sex attractions” recovery program.
Steve Apostolina and Elizabeth Herron provide virtuosic support playing a range of dysfunctional parents and well-meaning adults; and Chelsea Averil and Donald Russell all but steal the show as a pair of eccentric fellow travelers who have politically embraced homelessness as an anti-materialist way of life they call living “home-free.”
And if the whole of Loomer’s compassionate story adds up to little more than the sum of its parts, a top-notch cast and production values (J.R. Bruce’s austere set; Michele Young’s pinpoint-perfect costumes; David B. Marling’s driving sound; Luke Moyer's expressive lights) make it a seamlessly lustrous ride.
GO! The Road on Magnolia, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; through Nov. 8. (818) 761-8838, roadtheatre.org.
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