‘The Folks at Home’ Is A Modern Twist on Retro TV Comedy

March 6, 2024

L-R Keith Illidge, Livia D. Dawson, Tracy Michelle Arnold, Garrett Young & Sean Blake – Courtesy of Zach Rosing. Used with permission.

L-R Keith Illedge & Garrett Young – Courtesy of Zach Rosing. Used with permission.

The first thing I noticed upon entering the Indiana Repertory Theatre lobby Sunday were the comforting sounds of music themes from 70’s sitcoms. It was a prelude to an entertaining afternoon enjoying “The Folks at Home,” a heartwarming dramedy about the joys and struggles of a modern family and a story of aspiration for the American Dream that took place on the OneAmerica stage.

Cleverly directed by Reggie B. White, the play follows the story of husbands Roger (Keith Illidge) and Brandon (Garrett Young), a young interracial couple struggling with money and relationship issues, who find their lives further complicated when their relatives, adversely effected by their own financial problems, move into the men’s cherished home. The live in guests include Brandon’s parents Pamela (Olivia D. Dawson) and Vernon Harrison (Sean Blake) and Roger’s mom Maureen (Tracy Michelle Arnold). Adding to the mix was colorful Alice, the couple’s housekeeper, and Roger’s sarcastic, loyal sister Brittany, both played vividly by Claire Wilcher.

Tracy Michelle Arnold – Courtesy of Zach Rosing. Used with permission.

The play’s characters wonderfully reflect a mix of conflicting personalities that complete an ideal recipe for classic situational comedy. However, since Thomas’s multi themed play has a contemporary setting —issues that involve race, class, age, sexuality and economic insecurity — there is also plenty of pathos mixed along with witty jokes and one-liners scattered throughout. The only thing missing was a laugh track but there was plenty of positive reaction from the receptive live audience in the partially filled IRT house.

It is extremely rare that one ever witnesses anything but first-rate acting in an IRT production and this one, featuring mostly out-of-town actors, is no exception. Illidge and Young show convincing chemistry as, respectively, dreamer Roger and the more practical Brandon.  Dawson and Blake, shined respectively, as steady, nurturing Pamela and no-nonsense, old-school Vernon.  Arnold was impressive as free-spirited Maureen. Standing out for her comic flair, was popular Indy actor Claire Wilcher who played the sassy housekeeper and Roger’s sarcastic, yet loyal sister Brittany.

L-R Sean Blake & Olivia D. Dawson & Claire Wilcher Courtesy of Zach Rosing. Used with permission.

And as can be expected at an IRT production, the entire creative team is to be praised for its excellence in creating Brandon’s and Rogers’s realistic environment, reflecting their appealing taste and style. Especially notable was scenic designer, Linda Buchanan’s highly detailed and functional (down to the running water in the sink) set.

I am a gay man, who is a child of the sixties, and someone influenced politically and socially by the work of Noman Lear and other progressives like him. Consequently, Robert’s, uplifting, normalized depiction of a loving same sex couple inspired me. Despite those who wish to wind the clock back to a time that was more restrictive and confining, “The Folks at Home” gave me hope that progress will continue unabated, and the world will become even more tolerating and accepting.

Tickets to “The Folks at Home,” continuing through March 16, are available at irtlive.com.







photo: Josh Humble

About Tom

Journalist, producer, director, Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, arts administrator, TV contributor, actor, model, writer and lyricist, Tom Alvarez has had an extensive career in media and the fine arts and continues to be an enthusiastic and devoted fan of both. His passion and unique background grant him insight, access and perspective to cover, promote and review the arts in Indianapolis, Central Indiana and beyond. Follow him on social media @tomalvarezartswriter and @tomalvarez1.

Alvarez has been writing about theatre, dance, music, cinema and visual arts for 40 years. His work has appeared in the Indianapolis Star, NUVO, Indianapolis Monthly, Arts Indiana, Unite Magazine, Dance Magazine, NOTE Magazine, and Examiner.com, among many other print and online platforms. A former contributor to Across Indiana on WFYI-TV, he currently has a regular performing arts segment on WISH-TV’s Life. Style. Live!

A principal of Klein & Alvarez Productions, LLC, Alvarez co-created “Calder, The Musical” and is the managing director of Magic Thread Cabaret. As an actor-model, he has appeared in numerous TV and print ads and is represented by the Helen Wells Agency and Heyman Talent Artists Agency.

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