‘Home’ captivates with movement and emotion

 

‘Home’ a wordless but easily-parsed show that bristles with energy and inventiveness and quite a bit of heart.

Its talented onstage cast of seven combine tightly choreographed movements of modern dance, the comic inventiveness that might remind you of Charlie Chaplin or Jacques Tati and the shocking illusions of an first-rate magic show, all while creating striking images that touch the heart in unexpected ways.

The show begins so quietly and without fanfare you might miss it completely.  A sole actor walks from the audience onto an empty stage, and begins to staple plastic sheeting onto a frame.  He works dutifully and yet fully aware that he’s being watched. But don’t blink because his simple construction reveals itself to be so much more.

At times ‘Home’ is like watching a cinematic collage of overlapping imagines.  The cast pass around, over and under each other like a multiple exposure photograph, completing their daily routines: Showering, dressing, eating and cleaning with the flair of circus acrobats ( Choreography by David Neumann ).

These scenes are contrasted by moments of stillness and solitude that are instantly  relatable thanks to the skillful direction of Lee Sunday Evans and some loopy but endearing Dylan-esque songs by Elvis Perkins.

Over the course of almost 2 hours, playwright and lead actor Geoff Sobelle continually reveal new ways to delight and confound the audience while offering us flashpoints of joy, pain and sadness.

Although ‘Home’ has no traditional plot, at its core, its about how a house becomes a part of the family: Because of what we put into it, how we move through it or even how we use it to document our lives – think about a wall covered in memorabilia or pencil hatch marks documenting a growing child’s height.

Its about finding a safe space, under the covers of your own bed, or in the arms of our friends and family.  But it’s also about homes as places where we do all those mundane activities that make up the daily rituals.  The actor/dancers rush up and down stairs while brushing their teeth, desperately try to find the right clothes to wear, pack and unpack suitcases, and sit in darkened rooms, unable to sleep.  In one wonderful moment we watch a cascading series of dancers march halfway up stairs and then pause and switch direction, having remembered ‘something else’ they needed.

Along with the uniquely skilled cast, the set is a wonder to behold. The open-faced home, by Steven Dufala and ‘illusion consultant’ Steve Cuiffo, is a brilliant cabinet of curiosities that allows the cast to create some lightning quick transpositions and ‘trippy’ transformations.

The thoughtful and restrained light design by Christopher Kuhl is equally effective. Although the show never attempts naturalism, you might find yourself moved by an actor lit by what seems to be a single bulb or sunrise through an open window.  The sudden use of cheap florescent utility lights made me audibly gasp with recognition.

This is experimental theater that can be enjoyed by anybody. It’s full of humanity and engages an audience in a way that no movie or traditional play ever can.  In the end, ‘Home’ throws open its doors and welcomes you to the party.  Don’t refuse this invitation.

“Home” by Geoff Sobelle
Directed by Lee Sunday Evans
Created in collaboration and performed by Sophie Bortolussi, Jennifer Kidwell, Justin Rose, Ching Valdez and Josh Crouch

Performances are September 29 and September 30 at 8pm and and Sunday October 1, at 2pm at Emerson Paramount Center’s Robert J. Orchard Stage
559 Washington Street, Boston.

 

Tickets are available at www.artsemerson.org, by phone at 617.824.8400, or in person at the the box office.

 

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