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BWW Review: HOME at The Black Rep

Streaming on Vimeo thru April 25, 2021

BWW Review: HOME at The Black Rep

BWW Review: HOME at The Black Rep Filmed live theater rarely translates well to a virtual medium. I have been seriously disappointed by the live theatrical versions of classic shows that were performed on television. Rarely can a filmed theatrical event replace the emotion of being live in a theater for a performance of a great play or musical.

The St. Louis Black Rep's performance of HOME is a rare exception. From the very beginning of the virtual production, the three actors use their physicality to pull you into the story. For safety during the pandemic, each performer is wearing a mask and it seems almost normal. Maybe its because we've become accustomed to seeing one another masked, but it is more likely that Brian McKinley, Christina Yancy, and Tyler White's energy and body language transcends the mask.

HOME by Samm-Art Williams is the adolescent-to-adult story of farmhand Cephus Miles (Brian McKinley) who works on his family farm in the fictional town of Crossroads. He allows a broken heart to change the course of his life. He leaves home, ends up incarcerated, is seduced by the big city upon release from prison, falls into alcohol and drug abuse before finally returning home to realize that home is where he is happiest. McKinley's strong performance conveys the range of Cephus' feelings of sadness, rage, understanding, contentment and happiness. He spends the entire hour and forty-five minutes on stage, carrying the story like a seasoned veteran.

He is supported by Christina Yancy as Woman One/Pattie Mae and Tyler White as Woman Two. Both actors play multiple roles throughout the performance. They handle their roles with the vitality needed to go beyond the screen. The play opens with these two on stage and their electric performances immediately pull you in and capture your attention. The ebullience in their performances never wanes. Tyler White's physical acting is marvelous. Every choice made defines and completes the many characters that she portrays. Her scene as a Greyhound Bus driver is obvious evidence of her skills as a physical actor. From the moment she pantomimes opening the bus door and driving Cephus' back to Crossroads, you believe the cast members have actually boarded a Greyhound Bus. Her physical acting is captivating and among the best I've seen in over four decades of attending plays.

The production quality is the real star of this virtual performance. The creative vision of Director Ron Himes is on point and is pure perfection. The rich imagery of Scenic and Production Designers Margery and Peter Spack is visually stunning. It provides stage depth and transports you from Cephus' home, to prison, to the big city, and back. I'm a traditionalist and rarely like the use of projection effects in live theater. The Spacks' work illustrates how, when used effectively, projection can enhance the set design and add to the storytelling. The lighting design, sound effects and set design round out the excellent technical work of this production. The Black Rep has designed a masterclass on how to translate live performance to video or film. If you miss live theater, this is a performance that must be seen.

HOME is available for streaming on Vimeo from April 15 - April 25, 2021. There is a recommended donation of $25 to stream the virtual performance. To learn more, visit theblackrep.org.

Photo Credit: Peter Spack


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From This Author James Lindhorst