Vol. 16, No. 15 – Apr 19 – May 2, 2023 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Santa Paula Presents A 50’s Fantasy

Retreat to the 1950’s when life was measured by the housewife who kept order in check. Haven’t we all wanted, at some point, to revert to a time when things seemed so much simpler? On the surface, perhaps they were. But of course, it is all an illusion, as each generation has its own set of restrictions, challenges and inconsistencies to conquer. Today is no different, just with more technology.

Home, I’m Darling, a comedic play by Laura Wade, is playing on the main stage at the Santa Paula Theatre Center. With tongue firmly in cheek, the action introduces us to Judy, strongly embraced by Kimberly Demmary, a woman whose corporate job has been dissolved and who feels that she would prefer to live in a retro world of seemingly better times – the 1950’s. Alas, despite her desperate attempt of full immersion, the fantasy cannot be upheld in the face of reality. The complicated job of maintaining a “perfect” home remains undervalued.

Friends and family see Judy’s retreat into the 1950’s as a temporary coping mechanism. Her husband, Johnny, (James James) plays along for longer than he bargained and finds his patience about to crack. At the same time, he encounters a lack of forward movement in his real estate job when his new boss, Alex (Paula Smiech) chooses another agent for a promotion.

Judy’s mother, Sylvia, played with attitude by Poosy Holmes, is a realist, vainly attempting to pull her daughter’s fantasy world within logical boundaries, without much success. She points out that the 50’s were much more than cleaning and organizing. Prejudice, discrimination and politics were rampant. Judy’s fantasy world was only part of the story of the era.

The couple’s friends, Fran (Julie Fergus) and Marcus (Derek Petropolis) play along to a point as their own problems come to the surface. Solid performances are delivered by all.

Direction by Sarah Broughton is crisp and lively. The divided set of kitchen and front room of Judy and Johnny’s home is well appointed with a 1950’s styled kitchen, furniture and ornaments. Costuming lends the right touches of the Donna Reed look, complete with petticoats, pearls and heels to serve tea.

A particularly inventive method of set-changing involves some of the characters appearing with dusters and aprons while be-bopping to 50’s music. Everyone appears to be having fun as they tidy up.

There are a lot of thought-provoking questions raised, both in the script and implied, for the audience to consider. The second act explains the action of the first in addition to assisting the couple grapple with compromise. The second act dragged a bit winding up everyone’s issues.

Home, I’m Darling gives the audience a fun and fanciful look at some people’s inherent desire to slow progress, albeit with their smartphones and laptops handy. Such dichotomy shows the true picture of our hurry-up-and-slow-down world today.

Home, I’m Darling continues through May 21. www.santapaulatheatercenter.org or (805) 525-4645.

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