Homer Bound opens on a Maine lobster boat, on the eve of a wedding, about which young groom Charlie (Thomas Ian Campbell) is nervous. And he might not be getting the most knowledgeable advice from old Homer (Steve Underwood), a determined bachelor for whom the very mention of marriage leads to a rash. Back on land, paper wedding bells and tuxedo-fashioned party favors are ready for deployment. Mother of the bride Mary (Grace Bauer) has crock pots stewing near the lobster traps, and her sister Lena (Kathleen Kimball), in skin-tight, sparkly purple, arrives with fixings for the wedding punch: Hawaiian Punch and vodka. Meanwhile, the bride, Lila (Casey Turner), is huge (and hugely irritable) with child, and Charlie goes AWOL on his boat.
Clearly, happily, this is no bespoke Maine wedding of craft ales and artisanal wildflowers. Rather, it's the Maine of old-school local-color comedy, brought to us by the local writer you might better know as “The Marden’s Lady,” Karmo Sanders. Her new comedy Homer Bound has its world premiere at Good Theater, in a snappy, schticky, gleefully over-the-top production directed by Sally Wood.
Mary’s kitchen is a quintessence of old island Maine: raw wood and foliage-riddled wallpaper, framed pictures of birds and the sea, a pile of rope, a blue tarp. It’s a cozily crowded kitchen, and it fills up fast with the family’s personalities. Almost before you know it, Mary has called Lena an “old maid.” “That might be the meanest thing you’ve ever said to me,” pouts Lena. “I doubt it,” retorts Mary. But their fighting is of a piece with their fractious intimacy, and in the next breath, they’re cackling together at seething Lila.
With its thick-accented banter, tantrums, and boat-themed sexual innuendos, Homer Bound is the broadest of comedies, painted in the brightest and gaudiest of local colors, and Good Theater’s cast of pros goes all in. Under the characteristically dynamic direction of Sally Wood, the actors are in constant motion, pacing or scratching or fiddling with screws, and everybody here is adept at comedy.
The interplay of the stellar Kimball and Bauer, as the sisters veering from sniping to helpless hilarity, is a special delight — brash, wise, impeccably timed, and just absurd enough in histrionics. “My taste in men runs a strong and rampant river,” announces Lena with a lilt of the epic, her gaze raised to an imaginary horizon, with just the right theatricality to get us snorting. As Lila, Turner (wearing a truly huge pregnancy prosthesis under a green fatigue shirt) plays the perfect foil against the older women’s self-indulgences; she’s curt, haggard, intermittently enraged. “BULL!” she corrects her elders furiously. “It’s a BULL in a CHINA SHOP!”
Campbell has perhaps the biggest trope of a role to pull off, as the jittery groom, but his Charlie’s geniality and bemusement win us over even as we might roll our eyes at him. And as the titular character and destination, Underwood has great fun with the old bachelor’s accent, scratchy rashes, and bounteous library of idioms (remember “Christ on a cracker”?). As fussy and fidgety an old crab as Homer is, Underwood also manages to make him an expansive and good-natured one.
That’s true of the rest of the cast, too, and of the show in general: Screwball as it is, a genuine care and understanding tangibly binds all these relatives and neighbors. You can see it even as they spar, and it’s evident especially in the tenderness with which everyone treats Charlie’s cheerful intellectually disabled brother Ronnie (Jared Mongreau, in a bright beam of a performance). This crew takes care of each other even through their surliness and antics, and it’s key to the show’s appeal.
And will the wedding go on? While the suspense may not kill you, and while nutritious it isn’t, particularly, Homer Bound is a satisfying confection — even if it’s more whoopie pie than gossamer wedding cake.
Homer Bound | By Karmo Sanders; directed by Sally Wood | Good Theater, St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St, Portland | Through December 2 | Fri 7:30 pm; Sat 3 & 7:30 pm; Sun 2 pm; Wed-Thu 7 pm | $25-32 | goodtheater.com