Safe Home

Shadowland Stages, Ellenville

Does Tom Hanks + Timothy Busfield = Awesome… or Awful?

By Andrew Andrews

Timothy Busfield, Eilis Cahill, Leyu Girma, Paul Murphy, James Riordan, Nikkole Salter and Angeline Rose Troy appear in the world premiere of Tom Hanks & James Glossman’s Safe Home at Shadowland Stages. Original photo by Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc.

Bert Allenberry is a Crazy Rich Salinan.

Yes, he’s probably the wealthiest person ever from Salina, Kansas.

Bert became exceedingly rich by inventing technologies that changed the world. Now on his fourth wife, Cindee, Bert has so much money that he keeps handing over six million bucks at a time to a company called Chronometric Adventures, which has found a way to send crazy rich people back in time to June 8, 1939, to check out the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens.

On the first trip, Bert was with Cindee, as a gift from her. Since then, for only 22 hours each time, Bert meets Carmen, a woman he’s fallen madly in love with.

The problem is, each meeting is the first from Carmen’s perspective, as in 50 First Dates or maybe Groundhog Day.

The bigger problem is: Bert can only go back so many times before CA’s insurance policy flags him as ineligible, due to the round trip’s effect on his “constitution.”

Based on three short stories from Tom Hanks’ 2017 collection Uncommon Type, James Glossman’s play is making its world premiere to sold-out audiences, thanks to its famous connections.

But is it worthy?

If you read Uncommon Type, you’ll find the stories to be interesting and well-written, and Glossman’s script is very true to the source—so true, in fact, that much of it simply has one character or another reading from the text out loud, while the other performers act out the scenes.

The problem here is that sentences crafted to form a great book can’t just be dumped into a script to make for a great play: they must be re-written into a format that conveys the action instead of merely reciting it.

The plot has been tweaked in one respect: to combine three of the book’s stories into a single narrative, the playwright has embellished Bert’s tale with a “technology” that allows him to “see” the other stories through the eyes of their characters, but not actively participate. Its implementation, however, constantly and inexplicably violates its own rules.

The result is confusing at best, like dream sequences, with each actor in the small cast performing too many ill-fitting roles and repeatedly stumbling over their lines. As my partner put it, “it’s like they started out trying to make a movie and decided half-way through to turn it into a play.”

In a nutshell, Safe Home is a work-in-progress that still needs a lot of work.

Andrew Andrews attended Safe Home at Shadowland Stages in Ellenville on Sunday, July 17, 2022 @ 2:00pm to write this review.