The story opens in 1976 on the Calvert Farm in Raleigh, N.D. An aged Miles Calvert (Harry Singleton) reminisces with young Jerom (Mark Conley) about Clinton "Bo" (short for hobo) Hubbard (Maxwell Caulfield), whose funeral has brought the Calvert clan and their friends together.

The story opens in 1976 on the Calvert Farm in Raleigh, N.D. An aged Miles Calvert (Harry Singleton) reminisces with young Jerom (Mark Conley) about Clinton “Bo” (short for hobo) Hubbard (Maxwell Caulfield), whose funeral has brought the Calvert clan and their friends together.

As the memories begin to take form, the script flashes back to 1923. Van Tuyle’s theatrical use of past and present looks promising as young Miles (Karl Wiedergott) and Singleton relive the flashback together, but the potential for innovation is never realized.

Young Miles, upset by his mother’s remarriage, runs away from home by hopping a boxcar that turns out to be inhabited by the worldly Bo and, subsequently, by a fiery young black runaway, Marilyn (Lynette Lane).

Miles and Marilyn develop a bond that transcends years, at least on Miles’ part, before Marilyn is lost and left in the dark as the train pulls away.

Over the next decade Miles and Botraverse the country by rail, returning occasionally to the “home base” of Bo’s sister’s house in Tulsa.

Miles decides to return to the Calvert farm and re-establish contact with his mother Ruth (Juliet Mills). Upon his return, Miles discovers Marilyn had returned to Raleigh 10 years earlier and is now living as a prostitute — a victim of the Depression.

From this juncture until the play’s inevitable close a predictable sequence of events follow: Bo’s and Ruth’s interest in one another, the reclamation of the failed farm, Miles’ attempts to protect and provide for Marilyn, ad infinitum. So, what makes it work?

The list begins with Jules Aaron’s direction. Aaron doesn’t miss a chance to glean every moment, every beat from Van Tuyle’s faulty vehicle.

Though the work of several actors ranges from uncomfortable to embarrassingly inept, four of them create engaging characters with professional aplomb.

Weidergott plays the 15-year-old Miles with a sensitive naivete that immediately endears him to the audience. Unfortunately, his youthful charisma doesn’t age well, resulting in a slightly less empathetic young man.

Lane creates a remarkable contrast of a young girl before and after the loss of innocence; her adult Marilyn has no illusions and neither does her performance.

Though Mills seems to ease her way into her Midwestern accent, it’s clear she and Caulfield have done exhaustive dialect work (coach, Reldon Coffey). Mills offers a praiseworthy portrayal of the spent, abandoned Ruth sparked to life by the return of her son and Caulfield’s cavalier charisma.

The remaining kudos are extended to the design team. John Iacovelli’s planked , sliding, turning set magically shifts us from train to farm to interior without a cumbersome moment. Thomas Rinker’s sound and Michael Gilliam’s light complement Iacovelli’s work with artistic exactitude. Emelle Holmes’ appropriately drab costumes and Chuck Estes’ mood-setting score round out the picture nicely.

“In and Out of the Window” illustrates vividly that the whole can be better than the sum of its parts.

Beginning July 2, Peter Fox takes over Maxwell Caulfield’s role, while Lauren Tewes replaces Juliet Mills.

In and Out the Window

(Tiffany Theatre; 99 seats; $ 18.50 top)

Production

MGR Prods. presents a play in two acts by Jean Van Tuyle. Directed by Jules Aaron.

Creative

Sets, John Iacovelli, Emelle Holmes; lighting, Michael Gilliam; sound, Thomas Rincker; composer, Chuck Estes. Opened May 29, 1992.

Cast

Old Miles/Otis ... Harry Singleton Jerom/Harlan ... Mark Conley Miles Calvert ... Karl Wiedergott Clinton "Bo" Hubbard ... Maxwell Caulfield Guard/Sheriff Kimble ... Jack Fitzgerald Marilyn Sommers ... Lynette Lane Ruth Clavert Grimes ... Juliet Mills Some theater pieces work in spite of themselves, as evidenced in the world premiere of Jean Van Tuyle's Depression-era drama. Script contrivance and faulty scene structuring coupled with a startingly uneven cast fail to block accessibility; surprisingly, the subtlety of this ostensibly simple play is captivating.
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