Is there someone like any of these characters in your family? Norman (Joneal Joplin) is the authoritarian fatherâ€”not Daddyâ€”whoâ€™s gruff manner has scared more than one suitor from the house, but underneath that is really a sweet man. Ethel (Dale Hodges) is the mom who has been torn by her allegiance to her husband and a child, both she dotes on, but neither ever seeing eye to eye. Chelsea (Jennifer Joplin, Jonealâ€™s real life daughter) is the daughter who is a capable adult everywhere but in her childhood home, who has lived most of her life feeling she disappointed her father for not being a son. Charlie Martin (Charlie Clark) is the sweet but odd guy who still lives in the hometown, always reminding you of your youth. Bill Ray (Ken Early) is the daughterâ€™s new man, awkwardly butting heads with his grown girlfriendâ€™s father, as that father enjoys the game of â€œjerking him around.â€
As expected, all the leading characters are masters at their art of acting. There are over 120 years of experience among them. However, the brightest spots in this warm and genuine show are the scenes with newcomer Kaleb Barlow, as Billâ€™s young son, Billy Ray. With great timing, presence and diction, Barlow is charming. This Stivers School for the Arts student has found the balance which makes him a believable dentistâ€™s son from LAâ€”smart, polite, curious, but with some street cred. You can see why his character lights up Norman, and they thoroughly enjoy their time togetherâ€”as does the audience.
Director Richard Hess, also from UCâ€™s CCM, uses the space well, and guides us along on this journey, â€œa love letter to love, to longevity in marriage.â€ The show runs through April 23. For tickets visit humanracetheatre.org or call 937-228-3630.