‘Runaway Home’ at The Fountain Theatre Begs the Question

By Ernest Kearney  —  Runaway Home by playwright Jeremy J. Kamps, is a cannonade of language that comes at the audience like canister shot.

It also asks one of the great questions in life, “Can all the king’s horses and all the king’s men…?”

In Kamps’ play, at The Fountain Theatre, the Humpty Dumpty is Kali (Camille Spirlin) a 14-year-old runaway standing in as a metaphor for her city, New Orleans, and the tumble from the wall is compliments of Hurricane Katrina.

Kamps and director Shirley Jo Finney wisely prep the audience for what they have in store by opening the play on Kali searching through the piles of wreckage for anything salvageable while she unleashes a stream of consciousness dialogue that is about as close to a toe-tapping soliloquy as you’ll ever hear.

The wreckage that Kali has to sort her way through is not limited only to those broken pieces of material possessions, but the shattered wreckage of relationships.  These can’t be fixed with the application of Elmer’s Glue.

There is Kali’s mother, Eunice (Maya Lynne Robinson), who has returned with her to what remains of their home in New Orleans after three years of shelter in Baton Rouge.  There is Eunice’s former fiancé, Tat (Leith Burke), who thought that she and her daughter died in the hurricane.

Armando Rey, Camille Spirlin

Armando Rey, Camille Spirlin (Photo by Ed Krieger — Courtesy of The Fountain Theatre)

And there’s the relationship with the city itself in the form of its residents.  There’s the shopkeeper Armando (Armando Rey), a Mexican immigrant who takes Kali under his wing, there’s the next-door neighbor (Karen Malina White) who refused to leave her home and has emerged as an angry activist, there’s the volunteer Lone Wolf (Brian Tichnell) who came down as part of the government’s relief effort, and there’s Mister Dee (Jeris Poindexter) the obligatory “mad wise man” of the play.

If you see the play as a “cannonade of language” then Spirlin is definitely the fuse who whips through this piece with a force only slightly less formidable than Katrina.

Kamps seems to fluxuate between poet and playwright, and in this piece the poet seems to have the upper hand.  The language is nothing short of superb, but that doesn’t mean the play hasn’t suffered somewhat for the predominance surrendered to the poetry.

The necessity of a character or two is somewhat questionable, but that is a minor flaw.

A more serious one is that the vital question of the work — can we make our way through the wreckage of life to go on living — is somewhat lost in the verbiage.

That threat is not so noticeable in this production at the Fountain because fortunately for, both, Kamps and his play he has Shirley Jo Finney,  one of LA’s most craftsman-like directors and quite often an inspired one, who draws excellent performances from her wonderfully talented cast.  All performed on  Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s set which marvelously reflects the ruins of both New Orleans and the lives of Kamps’ characters.

As for Kamps, here is a talent worth watching as the Fountain production of Runaway Home is well worth seeing.

♦    ♦    ♦

(Featured in Main Image: Camille Spirlin, Maya Lynne Robinson — Photo by Ed Krieger)


Runaway Home


The Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Ave.
Los Angeles CA 90029
(Fountain at Normandie)

Playing through November 5

For tickets and information

(323) 663-1525

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An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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