Collectors often get a bad rap. Whether they’re scouring the web for limited edition trading cards or furiously amassing stacks of coins in their basement, they’re usually regarded with a quizzical eye. But LiveArt’s I <3 Hummels shows us that these figurine fans have feelings, too.
The production, directed by Kevin Finkelstein, centers on Raymond (James Radack), a painfully awkward introvert who surrounds himself with hummels instead of humans. Hummels—for those uninitiated—are porcelain figurines based on the pastoral drawings of a German nun. (They’re the precursor to “Precious Moments”—Hansel and Gretel in lederhosen.) If it sounds like a strange thing to collect, that’s because it is. But these rosy-cheeked figures are the closest thing Raymond has to friends.
During a lull at work, Raymond attempts to place a phone order for hummels and he’s mistakenly connected to a sex hotline, managed by Greta (Rebecca A. Heron), a hustling housewife. She becomes a wise-cracking guardian angel of sorts, advising Raymond on how to be…less like Raymond. When the president of the local collectors club, Mrs. Klein (Wendy Wilmer), tries to pair him off with her free-wheeling, hummel-hating daughter Heidi (Heather Whitpan), Raymond must decide just how much he’s willing to change.
The script, which was a collaborative ensemble effort, is well paced. While the production is certainly a comedy, a few poignant moments help anchor the story. Finkelstein makes the most of the small space at Goethe Institut’ Main Stage with a minimal set, character-specific props, and screen projections of the hallowed hummels. This last trick is particularly effective, as it gives the audience a glimpse into Raymond’s world.
As the soft-spoken and socially stunted collector, James Radack gives an endearing performance. His comic timing is flawless and his delivery is so sincere that you almost feel bad laughing at him. Rebecca Heron delivers a stellar performance as a sassy hotline housewife and it’s a delight to watch her amusement with Raymond develop into a genuine affection. Mother-and-daughter duo Wendy Wilmer and Heather Whitpan are the perfect pictures of imperfection, both, in their own way, trying to fit square pegs into round holes.
This charming production makes for a great date night, a welcome escape from summer blockbuster boredom. And who knows? Those tiny cherubs might inspire you to pick up a new hobby.
I <3 Hummels has 5 performances, ending July 29, 2012, at Goethe Institut, 812 7th St NW, Washington, DC
Details and tickets
Christian rates this 5 out of a possible 5, making it a Pick of the Fringe!