By Marissa Defrancesco
The world premiere of Tiny Houses by Chelsea Marcantel was anything but tiny. The 2018 Roe Green Award recipient from the New Ground Theatre Festival brought her delightful and relevant romantic comedy to the Cleveland Play House and along with it an interesting challenge: how to build a house live on stage 8 performances a week?
Cath (Kate Eastman) throws caution to the wind and follows her free spirited boyfriend of four months Bodhi (Peter Hargrave) from New York City back to his hometown in Portland, Oregon. Leaving her corporate finance job behind , the duo move to the country with the ambition to build a 200 square foot tiny home on wheels. They both quickly discover that when you pair down to the bare minimum you find out what truly matters.
Meeting the challenge of bringing Marcantel’s vision to life (tiny house on a trailer and all) is director Laura Kepley, scenic designer Arnulfo Maldonado, lighting designer Elizabeth Mak, and stage manager John Godbout. Together the team lead by a female playwright and female director build the house beam by beam as they tell the tale of Cath and Bodhi and their unintentional journey of self discovery.
As the story develops so does the home. Performed in the round at the Outcalt Theatre the atmosphere is very intimate and personal. Audience members see construction from every angle and feel immersed in the journey of the two main characters. The actors with very little on stage help from the stage crew build the home. Mak (lighting) and Daniel Perelstien (sound designer) do an excellent job of making longer stints of construction seamless and entertaining. As the weeks tick by and things become more complicated for Cath and Bodhi the home is built. Every nail placed drives the storyline along and the final step (Christmas lights on the front window) left every audience member smiling.
As Cath and Bodhi build their dream home a small group of likeable characters add to and in some cases complicate the storyline. With each appearance Ollie (Michael Dohertry) Bodhi’s childhood best friend, turned haunted doll enthusiast, has the audience rolling with laughter. It is his backyard the couple complete the build in and he is more than eager to help. The audience is introduced to another quirky character early on, Jevne (Nandita Shenoy). Jevne is another old friend of Bodhi’s turned ASMR Youtube star, she eagerly inserts herself into the project and brings some obstacles to the storyline along with her knee high Frieda Kahlo socks. With Bohdi’s pair of free spirited Portlandians, Cath finds solace in Jeremiah (James Holloway) a level headed contractor. The five person cast does an excellent job of working harmoniously, and while there are no stand out performances, all five contribute immensely to the overall success of the performance.
If you are looking for a feel good story about how life gets complicated when you try to figure out what truly matters or are a fan of interesting scenic design, Tiny Houses is for you! The 90 minute ,no intermission show is modern, heartwarming, and a great night out in Cleveland. Performances run until April 14th.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.