The Huntington Theater Company Presents A Guide For The Homesick

Samuel H. Levine and McKinley Belcher III in the Huntington Theatre Company's production of A Guide for the Homesick, directed by Colman Domingo. © Photo: T. Charles Erickson.

By James Foritano

BOSTON, MA — How best to introduce a play reeking with the ambiguities and ambivalences of the human situation is perhaps to start with a few paragraphs of bare facts. The title of the play under review is “A Guide for the Homesick” by playwright Ken Urban. Its current run takes place from October 6 through November at the Huntington Theatre Company’s new South End venue, the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts.

The main actors on stage are Mckinley Belcher III, playing “Teddy,” and Samuel H. Levine, playing “Jeremy,” under the direction of Colman Domingo. The setting and time are Amsterdam. Teddy’s hotel room. Evening and the following morning. January 2011.

All these bare facts come together in a most accommodating and highly professional manner to hand the attending audience (you and me) a “guide” that is so “hot” you have to keep tossing it into the air not to burn your fingers, let alone your souls.

But this is what we came for, right? Not to schmooze during the intermission — there is no intermission, as the ushers will gleefully inform you — and then go to dinner, cocktails and more schmoozing.

No! We came to see ourselves in all our “homesick” glory wondering how we ever ended up in Amsterdam dragging such a motley, incriminating train of baggage, it must certainly belong — please God! — to someone else!

And who is this other fellow we are sharing a room with, and on what deeply fateful circumstance, or shallow fumes of a few drinks below in the false amity of a hotel bar…yet?

Playwright Urban’s dialogue doesn’t intrude on pauses freighted with more meaning than words; his ear can reproduce the argot of youth, the poetry of individual idiom while still managing to observe the boundaries of standard English in making more or less sense to its world of speakers.

Reproducing a dialogue so nimbly accommodating to pregnant silences, colorful argot and idiom demands nimble acting — one which exercises not only due memorization but an instinct for emotional temperatures and how, believably, to move among and through them.

And, indeed, to this reviewer, it seems as though the great charm of Belcher and Levine’s acting lies in their ability to make surprise, shock, connection, even the ripe ache of confusion as lucidly portrayed as can be without veering into caricature.

This dance of communication’s subtler states mirrors perfectly the modern individual’s task of stitching together all the roles, less and less traditional, of gender, family, political subject — not to mention friend, lover, advocate, etc., in one, more or less enduring and adaptable self.

We leave the theater more or less convinced that such a goal for the able and courageous — as a starter — lies not at the end of some mythical rainbow, but, with a good guide book in hand, realizable right here and now!

At least in Amsterdam, on a stage so well endowed…

(The Huntington Theatre Company’s presentation of Ken Urban’s “A Guide for the Homesick” continues through November 4 at the South End/Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts,527 Tremont St., Boston, Mass. For more information, call (617) 266-0800.)