Theatre Review: CATCO’s Evocative, Moving ‘Home’
CATCO leans into its core strengths with an invigorating production of Samm-Art Williams’ mythopoetic 1980 Tony nominee Home directed by David S. Harewood.
Home traces the journey of Cephus (Rico Romalus Parker) through a vibrant abstraction of the mid-20th century black experience (including the Great Migration and Vietnam), watching his friends die and society turn its back on him, struggling to find the peace and belonging in the title while constantly struggling with its lack. Shanelle Marie and Shelby Holden represent the rest of society, from children taunting “old, mean Cephus” at the end of his life, to his true love; everyone he crosses paths with.
Williams’ play still holds sway over our imaginations by painting plot points the audience knows through repetition in fresh language and indelible images. Harewood’s visceral direction – with the help of Edith Dinger-Wadkins’ minimal and evocative set and Brendan Michna’s nuanced lighting – attacks this material with the physicality it needs. Marie and Holden orbit around Parker’s gravity and one another, leaving Parker’s Cephus always isolated at the center of our attention without obviously underlining it.
Home depants lightning-quick changes of place and temperament from Holden and Marie and they take every hairpin turn and sudden flowering, of pain and righteousness, with the deceptive ease of the best ballet. By the end of this tight, 90-minute one-act, the audience not only believes they’re the entire world, it’s hard to believe there weren’t more people on stage throughout.
The play would fall apart into nonsequitur and cliché without a strong Cephus at its center. This production outdoes itself with the colossal, heartbreaking Parker. He leavens a bone-deep understanding of the classic preacher cadence and projection with the character’s rich understanding of what he doesn’t know. With such a small cast and set, throughout his character brings Cephus’ world, all its history, and its ghosts, to life in the word being made into flesh sense. Watching Parker do that here distills the magic of theatre into a rich, 180-proof shot glass as suited to warm the viewer from the inside as to giving birth to a blue flame.
Home is a delightful, exciting production of a play not done often enough. A full, warm reminder of theatre’s gift for reminding us of our shared humanity, both the toll exacted and the rewards gained from living.
Home runs through November 24 with shows at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:00 p.m. Sunday. For tickets and more info, visit catco.org/catco1920/home-williams.