Catching Out, Billy Goat Experiment Theatre Company, at the Broadway Armory. Romantic accounts of riding the rails in Depression-era America abound, and it’s easy to see why the relatively free hobo lifestyle appealed to some. Yet the experience was often a miserable one: panhandling for dimes and working for slave wages, wandering from town to town without a true sense of home, getting wasted on Sterno as the sole relief from the drudgery of each hopelessly empty day. For many, the noble hobo existence was less an idealistic choice than an act of desperation.

In Catching Out playwright Catherine Jarboe takes a balanced approach to the history of the hobo, recognizing both the good, such as the camaraderie, and the bad, the heartbreak and sense of displacement. She hits the mark in mood and tone but is entirely too obsessed with small details. Her script is too broad in scope and too impressionistic in form; the authentic-sounding hobo jargon is about the only thing that truly anchors the play in the 30s. Steve Lehman and Chris Williford contribute some fine performances in a variety of roles, and Jarboe and Troy Martin’s folk ballads add color. At times Catching Out does capture the rush of riding the rails; more often, though, it feels like Jarboe’s characters are stuck on a slow-moving train to nowhere.

–Nick Green