HOME IS MY ROAD by Florence Gibson, directed by Ken Gass, with Sean Dixon, Patricia Fagan, Arsinée Khanjian, Brandon McGibbon, Monique Mojica, Tony Nappo, Brenda Robins and Dragoslav Tanaskovic. Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst). Runs to May 11, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Sunday (and May 10) at 2 pm. $22-$30, Sunday pwyc-$22. 416-504-9971. Rating: NN
Florence gibson should pay at- tention to the adage "Write what you know." The white middle-aged doctor-turned-writer is best known for her 2000 play, Belle, a competent but schematic work about black slaves after the American Civil War. I found it pretty unconvincing.Home Is My Road, her latest, is a competent but schematic work about the adoption of Roma babies in post-communist Romania. The most convincing character? A white middle-aged woman named Grace.
Brenda Robins brings her usual intensity and clear-voiced intelligence to this part, and her chilling stories about the effects of infertility on her marriage and her jaded hopes for finding a baby in Romania ring true. Robins adds class to the show.
It's sorely needed, because the play's central plot is pure melodrama. Canadian Esme (Patricia Fagan) has gone to Romania to search out her birth mother. Once there, she's caught up in a band of Romani headed by the fast-talking translator Stefan (Brandon McGibbon) and his sister Trinquet (Arsine Khanjian), who resorts to prostitution to support her child rather than succumb to the affections of baby broker Claude (Tony Nappo).
Gibson can be good with language. Stefan's pan-European patois is amusing, if sometimes too clever. He says to Esme he's a "cunning linguist," which seems too sophisticated a pun for him.
But Gibson's characters lack real history -- they feel like pieces on a global chessboard. Khanjian gets to wring her hands and sing songs with silly lyrics like "I am eternal" and "Roma! Roma!" and Fagan plays the frustratingly underwritten, well-meaning but naive Western girl. The hard-working Monique Mojica and Sean Dixon get reduced to tics and mannerisms, although Mojica gets one astonishing back-story scene that stylistically comes out of nowhere.
Only Robins and Nappo have complex enough characters to give us a glimpse of motivations.
Here's how studied and manipulative the script is: Gibson interweaves the Notre Dame de Paris hunchback story into the script. Esmerelda, Esme. Get it?
Gibson thinks she's written a serious play about issues. What she really has is a middlebrow movie-of-the-week.