BWW Review: Be Ready to Play Your Part Creating a HOME in the Past, Present and Future at The Broad Stage
The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica is presenting the Southern California Premiere of HOME, created by Geoff Sobelle and directed by Lee Sunday Evans, who won a 2018 Bessie Award for Outstanding Production. Starting out on an empty stage, HOME is an enchanting visual and immersive spectacle that asks what it means to make a house a home. Starting with nothing, the set goes up fast, choreographed in almost time-lapse photography as residents move in, move out, get evicted, rent it, remodel it, get married, have babies, and get divorced in it; grow up in it, die in it, and eventually haunt it. And as each of the seven residents go about their daily routines in each of the rooms, they live among traces of those in the present, past, and future who appear and disappear in the same spaces. And in the end, they throw a party, as if everyone who ever lived there could cohabitate, transcending the logic of time and space.
HOME aims to awaken us to current housing dilemmas, local and global. The universal and timely themes of gentrification and migration are rendered in the choreography of ordinary people inhabiting a structure, leaving that structure through a variety of social, political, personal, and aesthetic forces, replacing one another, repeating. The project seeks to use the house of the theater as a lens through which we might see the impact of these forces at work: the illusion of home; the transitory nature of dwelling; the constraints of time and money; the impossible structural demands of a house; the absurdity, and at times the impossibility, of trying to make a house a home.
Combining illusion, live music, home-spun engineering, movement and an inventive use of audience interaction, creator Geoff Sobelle shares, "My job as a theatre artist is to challenge traditional modes of perspective through complex, multi-layered, virtuosic, visual theatre that uses performance itself as a metaphor for the human experience. The story of HOME is the life cycle of a house and the many dreams of home cast upon it."
And just as intriguing as the intertwining stories of the seven residents portrayed by the cast (Geoff Sobelle, Elvis Perkins, Ching Valdes-Aran, Sophie Bortolussi, Jennifer Kidwell, Justin Rose and Arlo Petty) is the way in which dozens of audience members are called upon to join in as guests invited on stage to portray visiting characters who don costumes, assume personas as they interact with various residents and each other, and then gather around the dining room table to join in the final celebratory party before the house is abandoned for good. Somehow the cast members are able to relay character purpose and movement to all audience members who join in the fun, seemingly as if they have all done it before. And when the final party ends, certainly anyone who has ever packed up a beloved home will empathize with each resident as they take one last look at the now-empty house before walking out the door for the final time.
The entire play is a visual treat for the senses, not only for what we see but also for what we hear thanks to composer Elvis Perkins who performs several emotionally eerie songs on autoharp and guitar throughout the show as residents, one after the other, wake up in bed, perform daily routines in the bathroom (including full nudity walks in and out of the shower), walk up and down the stairs between floors, sit and watch TV in the living room, gather around the table center stage, or prepare and enjoy meals (as well as company) in the kitchen. And since there is no dialogue, it is up to us to figure out what is being said, although you will soon realize it doesn't really matter as it is just being together for whatever purpose in a house that makes it a home. The show is literally a house party where the whole audience is invited to play their part.
With incredibly intricate choreography by David Neumann and brilliantly inventive direction by Lee Sunday Evans on Steven Dufala's scenic design which literally gets built before your eyes, HOME will draw you into the universal experience of what it means to make a house your own personal sanctuary in terms of the work's form and its content. As performers, objects and characters replace each other, we are reminded that any dwelling place is always turned into something new by its current residents and a home is experienced by collaboration of all who visit there. Perhaps, in a sense, the play reminds us that we are all guests in the residences we inhabit since others may have preceded or will certainly replace us as time passes, and yet the house itself lives on and gathers not only dust, but the spirits of all who have lived there. After all, we all have shared the space when we live in the same house. But it is up to each of us to make it our own home.
Kudos to the rest of HOME's entire creative team for their contributions to the overall unique experience of each performance, including Sound Designer brandon wolcott (his unseen barking dog certainly sounded like my own!); Lighting Designer Christopher Kuhl; numerous Costumes designed by Karen Young which perfectly suit each soul onstage from moment-to-moment; and Illusion Consultant Steve Cuiffo for seemingly making room appear from nowhere!
Appearing to be an impromptu dance that defies time and space, HOME magically transforms our mundane everyday tasks into a glorious, intimate and profound celebration of life itself. But with only six performances from March 4 through March 8, 2020, get your tickets ASAP and be Ready to Play your part - even if you never leave your seat during the performance! Tickets starting at $39 are available at thebroadstage.org, by calling 310.434.3200, or visiting the box office at 1310 11thSt. Santa Monica CA 90401 beginning three hours prior to remaining performances on Saturday, March 7 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm; and Sunday, March 8 at 2:00pm.
There will be a POP! event following the 2:00pm performance on March 7 for some homespun creative fun on The Broad Stage's plaza with activities inspired by HOME, which is also the seasonal theme of The Broad Stage.
Photo credit: Sea Sloat / www.seasloat.photography