The Kennedy Center-commissioned, world premiere production of The (Mostly True) Adventures of Homer P. Figg follows a 12 year-old boy on his adventures as he learns about the importance of honesty, loyalty, and family. Along the way, he teaches the captivated audience about significant parts of American history.
Figg is based on the book by Rodman Philbrick, and it begins with the eponymous Homer P. Figg (Ryan Mercer) telling the audience a whopper of a lie: that the battle of Gettysburg was won because of him and his older brother. The time is 1863, during the American Civil War, and the northern “Union” states are fighting the southern “Confederate” states over the right to own slaves. President Abraham Lincoln wants to end slavery. The North agreed with him; the South did not.
We then meet Homer’s 17 year-old brother (Joe Brack), who is accused of a crime that could cause him to be sold into service as a Union soldier. Homer begs the local judge not to let his brother be sent away, but the judge didn’t listen and found his brother guilty of his crime, allowing him to be sold into service. Homer, determined to find him, sets out, without shoes, to return his brother so he can continue to take care of Homer and keep him safe until the war is over (they lost their parents when Homer was really young).
Homer quickly runs into two bad guys, Smelt and Stink, who work for Homer’s mean Uncle, Squinton Leach (Michael Glenn). Smelt (Joe Brack) and Stink (Michael V. Sazonov) have Samuel Reed (James J. Johnson) in their custody because they are convinced he is a run-away slave and they are sure that taking him back to Mr. Leach will get them a reward. Homer manages to get away from Smelt and Stink and also frees Samuel.
Homer’s escape leads him to the house of Mr. Brewster (Michael Glenn) and Mrs. Brewster (played by an hilarious Michael Russotto). The Brewsters like Homer right away and start to think of Homer as the son they never had. They soon reveal their great secret to Homer: they shelter run-away slaves as part of the Underground Railroad. Samuel is the man who risks his life taking the run-aways over the boarder to freedom in Canada.
Homer asks why the Brewsters help the run-away slaves despite the real possibility of getting arrested or killed. Mr. Brewster replies, “A person has only two options in life: To do something or to do nothing.” Mr. Brewster decided to do something, and Homer is inspired by his answer and he begins to think of the well being of others over his own.
Homer’s adventures continue and he meets many interesting characters along the way. There is a clergyman, carnival performers, criminals and several pigs, but in the end he does find his brother and decides a life full of something is better then any lie he could ever tell.
…teaches the captivated audience about significant parts of American history.
Seven actors play all 25 characters in this production, and their quick costume changes are amazing, as was their incredible ability to change into another character as fast as they changed costumes. The set design (Dan Conway) and the direction (Gregg Henry) work well to convey the vision and feeling of traveling on trains, ships and even a hot air balloon.
After the play ended, my eight-year-old daughter was bursting with questions and comments about the war, slavery, and the Underground Railroad. I was delighted to have an interesting and charming character like Homer and his adventures to use when discussing these serious historical events with my daughter. So, I must thank Homer and everyone involved with this production of The (Mostly True) Adventures of Homer P. Figg for imparting a few powerful life lessons and for throwing in some American history facts as well.
Running Time: Approximately 60 minutes with no intermission.
The (Mostly True) Adventures of Homer P. Figg is playing through December 9, 2012 in the Family Theater at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. To buy tickets call the box office at (202) 467-4600 or click here.