Review: Home, I'm Darling by Jarrott Productions
by David Glen Robinson


Martina Olhauser (photo by Steve Rogers)

The first act of Home, I’m Darling stamps Ozzie and Harriet, British edition on our minds. The saccharine preciousness of the set is matched by the opening caricatured scenes of action. Later, with a line serving to cover the embarrassment of the play at having done that to us, one of the characters denounces the principals, Judy (Martina Ohlhauser) and Johnny (Tobie Minor), as having turned their lives into cartoons.


Right, cartoons. But that somewhat throwaway line is a direct clue to understanding the play and playwright Laura Wade’s purposes in writing it.


The play does not reveal itself right away despite the opening zero-calorie sweetness, but we learn the premise soon enough. The action takes place in the presence of laptops and cell phones. A bit of iPhone fu or legerdemain serves to set it in with us. One scene in the first act shows the principals in current (21st century?) guise in a flashback (flashforward?) to a moment when they were planning their gambit to throw everything back to the 50s. I think. The mix-ups explain the brilliant fumble-tongued title.


Sorry, some of us haven’t adjusted to pretzel time in the multiverse. Or even to daylight savings time.


The couple are office workers. Johnny’s a real estate agent who lives partly on commissions. Judy was RIF’d and took the severance package, which created, as it does for many, that once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to create their own private Idaho or Fantasy Island. Judy’s dream is that of the Ozzie-and-Harriet Madison-Avenue 1950s where she can stay at home and have enough time to clean behind all the furniture and keep everything in place. Johnny plays along happily because he’s in love. The immediate tension is the couple’s expectant wait for Johnny’s promotion to regional something-or-other with a paycheck large enough to drive them deeper into Liberace afternoons.


Guess what happens?


This is a giant live-in fantasy, from architecture, interior design, fashion, and Judy’s styling and makeup (great credit to costume designer Buffy Manners). They live it, they really mean it. It’s 50s cosplay in the time of Barbie ,with a hint, a touch, a taste, of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? And the story is about it all falling apart. So à la mode!



Martina Ohlhauser, Julia Chereson (photo by Steve Rogers)


Web Burkley (photo by Steve Rogers)Judy introduces us to her best friend Fran, played by Julia Chereson, who is married to Marcus, played by Tyler Jones. Their interaction is interrupted by Johnny’s discovery that the mortgage company is going to foreclose on the house. Judy was hiding the bad news. She has overspent on mid-century furniture and has no reserves. Will Johnny’s promotion come in time to fulfill their dreams? Web Burkley plays Alex, Johnny’s boss, who nominates the candidates for promotion. Alex is a bit domineering, punctilious, ultimately fair, and very well played by Burkley.



Martina Ohlhauser, Bernadette Nason (photo by Steve Rogers)


Hello again, Bernadette Nason, fresh from just about every other play in town! As Sylvia, Judy’s mother, Bernie enters in flowing color, everything but paisley, and issues a philippic against the 50s writ large. She really doesn’t like the 50s and her daughter’s fascination with them. Sylvia’s speech was well in frame with the first-generation feminism of her time. Sylvia, still in keeping with her alt generation and bitter against Judy’s philandering father, refuses to turn over inherited funds to save Judy and Johnny from foreclosure. A 70s hippy to a T, Sylvia delivers a denunciation of that earlier era, condemning “unworthy” 50s male celebrities from John Wayne to Gregory Peck.


That seems a bit selective, considering she fails to address, for example, James Dean and Rebel Without a Cause. Dean’s character and the film gathered great sympathy for a generation of boys and girls, inarticulate and oppressed, who believed for one shining moment they had a friend in one teenager, moody and silent like themselves, and a movie that explained them. One can’t help but think that Dean, gone too soon, and the movie sustained them through Vietnam, AIDS, and Covid 19. The survivors are in their 80s now, proud products of the 50s. Ah, well.


Tobie Minor, Tyler Jones, Julia Chereson, Martina Ohlhauser (photo by Steve Rogers)


To this reviewer, what’s best about Jarrott Production’s Home, I’m Darling is Will Gibson Douglas’s direction. Good direction is the combination of line, movement, and gesture with a fine stitch through every moment of a play. Douglas’s success is verging on perfection. It was especially enjoyable watching the scene of the two couples, four actors, meeting for cocktails. Every munch, every sip, every sidelong glance, all the “stage eating,” was keyed to the rapid-fire dialog going on through it. Douglas and his excellent cast made it all look easy, and very British. Further, they never dropped their English accents.


Tyler Jones’ character of Marcus was exceptional, set off by high comb-back hair and oil worthy of Rocky Vaselino. He was unusually cast—his usual is a very positive character, Charlie Brown from way back and C.S. Lewis from Jarrott Productions’ debut offering Freud’s Last Session. He’s back and he’s bad (in a good sense). His Marcus did not seem ill-intentioned to me until the character proved it. Good reveal, Jones and Douglas.


Then just as Judy with Marcus’ assistance is about to turn it all into Leave it to Beaver Goes to the Dark Side, playwright Laura Wade goes and wrecks everything with a happy ending.


See it for yourselves at Trinity Street Playhouse through April 7th.



Home, I'm Darling
by Laura Wade
Jarrott Productions

March 21 - April 07, 2024
Trinity Street Players
Black Box Theatre, 4th floor, First Baptist Church
901 Trinity Street
Austin, TX, 78701

March 21-April 7 , 2024

Thursday March 21st , 2024– Preview Performance

Friday March 22nd - Opening Night & Reception. 

Showtimes are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:30 pm

Trinity Street Playhouse, 4th floor of First Austin, 901 Trinity Street

Ticket prices range from $15-$35 and advance reservations are strongly suggested as this is sure to be a sold out run. Reserve now for best seats at Jarrott Productions’ Ticketweb page.  

 Street, lot and garage parking are available near the venue.