My Wandering Boy, by Julie Marie Myatt, in its world premiere at the commissioning South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, California, is intriguing, daring, and ultimately satisfying both in its storytelling and its story. While the text leans toward tracking a particular wanderer, the production opens up — literally, for a series of film clips by Austin Switser — to offer a gentle, non-judgmental view of the bedraggled army we once romanticized as tramps and hoboes, but now see simply as homeless.
Bill Rauch directs the launch of this play by his Cornerstone Theater Company colleague. He syncs a fine cast led by Charlie Robinson to Myatt’s spare, funny dialogue in a way that lets the characters be both natural and instruments of the writer's poetics. The corrugated upstage panels of Christopher Acebo’s set open scene by scene like the aperture of a camera lens to reveal more and more sky. As pieces of living room furniture accumulate, the portal widens. The more objects that weigh down a wanderer's home, the greater the lure of the open road.
Thirty-year-old Emmett Boudin has disappeared. It’s not clear whether he was pulled by freedom or pushed by responsibility. Emmett had the facile charms that win easy accommodation from others. His father says he was just lazy. Either way, Emmett grew into a man-boy who was blissfully free of the need to justify his actions to parent or peer.
After his parents (Richard Doyle and Elizabeth Ruscio) learned that Emmett’s late grandmother left her estate to him, they hired Detective Howard (Mr. Robinson) to find him. Howard’s sleuthing forms the motion of the play, leading him to three of Emmett’s circle – a best friend (John Cabrera), a girlfriend (Purva Bedi), and a later girlfriend (Veralyn Jones) with whom he has a baby son.
That son, who becomes the only person Emmett favors with any rationale, reveals Emmett's humanity. While it would be hardly adequate in the real world, here the letter writing seems to suffice. However, the stationary letter reading, while logical, feels overly static.