Adam Cerny, Ashley Hoskins, Jim Harris, Emmalee Hilburn, Gillian McMahon, and Louie Fisher in Anywhere but Here

I’ll be honest: The crazy, early-spring, heavy snowstorm that knocked out power to my house earlier in my Saturday soured my mood, and I was not really looking forward to going out to see playwright Bradley Robert Jensen's Anywhere But Here. This, though, made it all the better that this workshop production turned out to be such a gem – Jensen's slice-of-life piece is heartfelt and laugh-out-loud funny while still broaching some heady topics. However you’re feeling heading into the Mockingbird on Main, I’m confident in saying this show will give you moments that will validate your current emotional state.

A fictionalized version of Jensen’s real-life experiences, Anywhere But Here follows Billy (Adam Cerny) a costume designer for the theatre, who ends up moving back home to live with his parents during the pandemic. I feel like many can relate, and if not, at least empathize with what it’s like to be an adult forced back into the childhood role they’ve outgrown, and forced to navigate difficult conversations. Jensen also served as the production’s director (as well as its costume designer), and he delivered some fantastic moments. Clearly, Jensen has lived some of these scenes, so having others credibly portray them came seemingly effortlessly.

Cerny brings an effervescent quality to Billy, who generally tries hard to stay cheerful but also live authentically as a gay man with parents who haven’t fully embraced that part of his identity. Throughout the evening, I thought the discussions – and even the escalation of this “elephant in the room” – seemed incredibly natural. I was, however, slightly taken aback by how frequently the word “affirming” came into play. Perhaps this just isn’t in my vernacular, but it was the only piece of Jensen’s script that felt forced. A few synonyms, in my opinion, wouldn’t have hurt the dialogue.

Adam Cerny and Ashley Hoskins in Anywhere but Here

Ashley Hoskins and Jim Harris, who played Billy’s parents Amanda and Bill, were a delightful dose of reality. While Billy is our protagonist, the pandemic brought Amanda her own struggles, and what Jensen’s script does especially well is make every character written so that no one is entirely good or bad. This was particularly evident with Hoskins' and Harris’ portrayals even early in the show. After Billy makes his mom a dress, it was wonderful to see the pride and joy she had for her son’s talent while Bill was clearly uncomfortable with what was happening. And while Harris’ performance as Bill was more one-note – I didn’t quite see the depth of love for his son until the very end – he and Hoskins made for an excellent representation embodying archetypal Midwestern parents.

While Anywhere But Here primarily focuses on Billy and his folks, there’s also an addition to their COVID bubble in the form of their next-door neighbors: Billy’s best friend Mikayla (Gillian McMahon), and her parents Veronica (Emmalee Hilburn) and Don (Louie Fisher). When the six characters are together on stage, those are the moments the script shines the most. Hillburn, always funny, is universally recognizable, with her Thanksgiving entrance shockingly hilarious but so true to life; I bet most people have a Veronica-like individual in their lives. Fisher’s character, meanwhile, was the strong, silent type, but still brought plenty of laughs in his straightforward portrayal.

I especially appreciated Mikayla and Billy’s relationship, and Cerny and McMahon play off each other beautifully. Through their words and actions, you could see genuine love between the characters displayed throughout the evening, and even when Billy was grieving and snappy with Mikayla, it seemed a natural reaction to his sadness. McMahon did an excellent job of appearing hurt while also showing her best friend love and understanding.

Adam Cerny and Gillian McMahon in Anywhere but Here

Jensen used the Mockingbird space quite well for the most part and scenic artist Savannah Bay Strandin decorated the set with an excellent eye for details – I especially enjoyed the den's different wedding pictures of familiar faces. There was a moment in which the backrest of the downstage dining-room chair blocked some of the action for me (and perhaps me only), but it wasn’t for very long. Lighting designer Tristan Tapscott had some homey fixtures adding lovely ambiance, but there were a few times in which their employment seemed a bit chaotic regarding which one was turned on at any given time. Punctuating the show was Ryan J. Hurdle’s delightful sound design that took me right back to the pandemic; it was almost a shame to return to the action after intermission, because I enjoyed the music so much. Luckily for all of us, Jensen has scripted a musical moment not too deep into Act II that lets Cerny shine and the tension escalate to its ultimate breaking point.

Overall, Anywhere But Here was an enjoyable evening that was just as likely to make you think and examine your biases as it was to make you laugh. Jensen’s direction was every bit as well done as his script and costumes, and truly, I demand a sequel, because I’d love to see what happens to Billy next!


Anywhere but Here runs at the Mockingbird on Main (320 North Main Street, Davenport IA) through April 2, and more information and tickets are available by visiting

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