Tom Stephan is a revelation in Different Stages' Humble Boy by Charlotte Jones, playing through the end of the month at the City Theatre.
In Austin Shakespeare's production of The Tempest last September he was a dismayed and battered King Alonso of Naples, cast ashore in the opening scene and awkwardly penitent in Act V. Here, as Felix Humble, the title character of Jones' sardonic social comedy, Stephan is vividly alive, so inventive and subtle of gesture and emotion that one can hardly take one's eyes from him. That's a greater achievement that you might at first suppose, for he plays against the redoubtable Jennifer Underwood, one of Austin's most sharply etched character actresses.
The opening scene, played motionless in the half dark for what seemed an eternity, gave us a bulky figure standing like a great lump in the back yard, next to the stacked supers of a beehive gone mad. An erratic flickering emanated from the hive as the audience was battered with the Trans Siberian Orchestra's manic version of Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee.
Only after the last discordant rock 'n' roll flourish did the lights rise to introduce into some semblance of stage reality. Stephan stood there, revealed as Felix Humble.