The Folks at Home is a great play with a lot to say and a worthwhile jaunt into what feels like a sitcom set in a Baltimore townhouse. R. Eric Thomas’s script features an interracial gay couple in middle-class America dealing with an uncertain future with nutty parents in tow. They are behind on their mortgage, one partner has been laid off, and there might be a questionable, lazy ghost in the house who likes to watch them make breakfast.
And that’s just the beginning. When both partners’ parents find themselves in need of a place to live, a once spacious home becomes a claustrophobic hub of activity and drama. But situations that could easily become mired in sadness are saved through spunky quick wit and snarky retorts. The cast makes it so easy to laugh along, and the audience becomes the sitcom’s laugh track.
The Folks at Home — now playing in its world premiere at Baltimore Center Stage — touches on everyday struggles such as financial insecurity, different generational ideals, and uncommunicative partners in a way that allows you to relate without becoming depressed. Stevie Walker-Webb’s direction allows each actor to bring their character to life and let their light shine.
Simean “Sim” Carpenter’s set features a detailed Baltimore home. It is breathtakingly stunning, giving off sitcom vibes while bringing a vibrant rowhome to life. It allows the audience to see another side of Baltimore, an alluring side that people often forget exists. So often you hear about the drugs, crime, and corruption in Baltimore that the historic beauty of Charm City is overlooked.
The central couple Roger Harrison (played by Brandon E. Burton) and Brandon Littlefield Harrison (played by Christopher Sears) were rich and dynamic. Burton and Sears’s interactions felt very real, almost intimate… except for their kisses, which felt forced and awkward. Burton’s Roger was constantly looking for more and trying to matter in a world where he feels ignored, forgotten, even less than. Sears’s Brandon, his husband, is ever so optimistic, trying to be supportive, understanding, and loving in his simplicity. Even when things are bleak and overwhelming, he doesn’t lose hope and stands up for his love. These two men show how love is love through losses, eccentric in-laws, and a resident ghost.
The joy of The Folks at Home lies in its funny moments — from a snarky comment that garners a smile to a full-out belly laugh over a parental guilt trip delivered on the way up to the attic. Maureen Littlefield, Brandon’s mother, played with great eccentricity by Jane Kaczmarek, is a real treat. She is the in-law you must have a drink… or five to deal with. From her snark to her over-the-top drama, she is oddly endearing. Even with her racially insensitive comments, you want to root for her and pray that she gets a clue on racial relations. Her odd little quirks show up in her pregnant daughter Brittany played by Alexis Bronkovic.
Roger’s parents are equally as funny. Local favorite E. Faye Butler is outstanding as Pamela Harrison. Pamela and husband Vernon (played by Eugene Lee) are what so many of our parents become at a certain age. These two are witty and brilliant with a certain air of class even when dealing with loss and failure. You can see why Roger had such a tough time dealing with his life and his perceived failures. His parents worked so hard for so long, to matter, to show they are worthy, only to have nothing but memories to show for it. But even at their lowest when they had to let go of their pride, they had a quiet strength and you had to respect them. Even though there were times they didn’t see eye to eye with their son, they didn’t stop loving him, sharing their lives, and teaching their lessons. I loved the moment when Vernon told Roger, “I see you.” It’s the moment I think everyone wants to have. To be seen. To matter. To know you changed the world in some way.
Throughout The Folks at Home, there are moments of uncomfortable realness, but the humorous storytelling, the bigger-than-life personalities, and the boldness with which they take on life all while maintaining their loving hearts give you a charming window to look into their world.
Perhaps that’s why that ghost sticks around.
Running time: Two hours with one 15-minute intermission.
The Folks at Home plays through April 10, 2022, at Baltimore Center Stage, 700 North Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets (starting at $49 with discounts available for seniors and students) call the box office at (410) 332-0033 or purchase online.
This season, BCS is working with a new technology platform, Assemble Stream, which will allow the company to live stream select performances from April 6 to April 10. Purchase streaming tickets ($30) online.
The program for The Folks at Home is online here.
COVID Safety: Baltimore Center Stage’s first priority is the health, safety, and well-being of our audiences, staff, artists, and guests. Our current policy is that masks must be worn at Baltimore Center Stage and may only be removed in designated eating and drinking areas. Proof of vaccination—or a negative COVID PCR test within 72 hours of showtime — is required. BSC’s COVID-19 Information and Resource Page is here.
Alexis Bronkovic BRITTANY LITTLEFIELD/ALICE
Brandon E. Burton ROGER HARRISON
E. Faye Butler PAMELA HARRISON
Jane Kaczmarek MAUREEN LITTLEFIELD
Eugene Lee VERNON HARRISON
Christopher Sears BRANDON LITTLEFIELD HARRISON
Susan Rome MAUREEN LITTLEFIELD U/S
Roz White PAMELA HARRISON U/S
R. Eric Thomas PLAYWRIGHT
Stevie Walker-Webb DIRECTOR
Simean “Sim” Carpenter SCENIC DESIGNER
Harry Nadal COSTUME DESIGNER
Sherrice Mojgani LIGHTING DESIGNER
Frederick Kennedy SOUND DESIGNER
Erin McCoy STAGE MANAGER
Avery James Evans ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER
Jalon Payton, Eloia Peterson PRODUCTION ASSISTANT
PJ Johnnie ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
Paloma Locsin ASSISTANT SCENIC DESIGNER
Grace Santamaria ASSISTANT COSTUME DESIGNER
Tyrell Stanley ASSISTANT LIGHTING DESIGNER
JZ Casting Geoff Josselson, CSA Katja Zarolinski, CSA CASTING
Rachel Finley ACCENT COACH
SEE ALSO: Baltimore Center Stage 2021/22 season is a go (season announcement)