Mad Horse Theatre is finally out of the pandemic barn and back onstage for a “wild ride,” as director Reba Askari describes the company’s first in-person production of the season.

Clare Barron’s award-winning, semi-autobiographical play, “You Got Older,” combines the offbeat with the very human, mixing wackiness with warmth, and (warning) it can get a bit graphic. But it all fits very well into the company’s aesthetic realm, as well as into the Mad Horse performance space located in an old school building in South Portland.

The play centers on Mae, a 30-ish unmarried, unemployed lawyer who has come home to Washington State to care for her ailing father. It quickly becomes clear that Mae needs a bit of care herself and sometimes seeks it in sexual ways that may make some audience members blush behind their masks.

Early scenes between Mae, played by Mad Horse regular Allison McCall, and the Dad, played by stage and screen veteran Whip Hubley, are awkward and distant, but loving.

Although McCall rushed her lines just a tad at the start of opening night, she succeeded in establishing a quirky charisma that would carry her though some tough scenes to come in the roughly 110-minute show, with no intermission.

Hubley made his patriarch, suffering from cancer, a sympathetic figure possessing a weathered wisdom that Mae and his other children would do well to take time to appreciate. But they all seem almost too far adrift. It’s never made entirely clear what causes this family’s particular discomfort.

Mae’s and her siblings Hannah (Morgan Fanning), Matthew (Benn May) and Jenny (Lauren Stockless) gather at their father’s hospital bedside in one lengthy scene where they humorously consider such things as whether the family has its own unique smell and whether sweaters can carry a curse. They ultimately bond in ways that reveal how the uncertain strengths and weaknesses of each, not just their odor or attire, are what hold them all together.

Arguably the best (and funniest) moments of the show are when Mae encounters Mac, played by Jeff Ruel, a hometown guy shyly looking to hook up with her. Their scenes gather warmth through an unassuming sense of a shared need to connect, however ineptly expressed. Mac may not fully “get” Mae, but their time together feels simply right in the otherwise complex world of this play.

McCall and David Jon Timm as the Cowboy, a character that only exists in Mae’s mind.

Finally, we have the Cowboy, a fantasy character conjured by and yet haunting Mae. Played with appropriate swagger by David Jon Timm, he seems to thrive on Mae’s restless dissatisfaction with her life, even when (or perhaps especially when) she’s seemingly under the protective eye of her father. The Cowboy’s explicit sort of exorcism finally closes off some of the darker corridors within the play.

Director Askari and crew have placed this sometimes unsettling but nonetheless rewarding play effectively within their theater’s intimate space, creating a sense that these characters who struggle so hard to enjoy the “good moments” in their lives are not so different from us all.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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