Directed by Ron OJ Parson
At Court Theatre
Amazing story of hope and resiliency is wonderfully performed.
Director Ron OJ Parson’s first directed Samm-Art Williams’ Home in 2008 at Signature Theatre in New York and now he brings Home to Chicago at Court Theatre. Home is an enduring poetic story of the American Experience about a Black farmer, Cephus Miles (Kamal Angelo Bolden), who loves the land and loves being a farmer in Cross Roads, North Carlina. Told by Bolden and two females – Ashley Honoroe and Tracey N. Bonner, Home is a spirited glimpse into rural Southern life late in the 1950’s to the present.
“Home is one of the pure classics of the African-American ensemble movement lead by the Negro Ensemble Company to change the face of American theatre. For a director it is one of those rare plays that you can always return to – always changing, always fresh, always moving, and always fun to work on,” says director Ron OJ Parson. Home was first performed in 1981.
What makes Home so riveting are the truly extraordinary performances by the three actors. Ashley Honore and Tracey N. Bonner swiftly move from one manic character to another deftly playing men, women, children, lovers and old timers to facilitate playwright Williams’ story. Honore and Bonner couldn’t be more versatile and effective. Their honesty, craft and energy give Home a feel of a large scale show despite only three players.
Kamal Angelo Bolden easily get us to like and empathize with the teen farmer content to be on his land. The simple guy is passive and unpretentious. When he is drafted to serve in the Army during the Viet Nam War, Cephus refuses to harm another soul. He is convicted of draft dodging and he is sentenced to serve five years in a federal prison in Raleigh, North Carolina. He looses his land and becomes not welcome upon his return to Cross Roads, North Carolina.
With terrific help from Honore and Bonner, we see Cephus move to a large Northern city to make his way after losing his farm. He finds work as a labor until his past prison history betrays him. He stoops to welfare, drinking and drugs as his adventures into big city survival engulfs him. He is a classic rural man unequipped to deal with the savage life of the American city.
We see Cephus always asking is God back from his vacation in Miami? The show is filled with rich self-deprecating Black humor that resonated more to the African-Americans in the opening night audience than to whites. We love and cheer for Cephus to find his place. When he returns to his farm fifteen years later, Pattie Mae Wells – his long lost sweetheart also returns to live with him. We cheer and are happy for Cephus who finally finds his American Dream.
The journey, a 1 hour and 45 minute one could use a trim and maybe an intermission, is a worthy, often humorous and poignant look at one part of the American Experience seldom recorded but filled with universal themes of injustice, bigotry, tolerance and survival.
The fabulous performances by Bolden, Honore and especially Bonner make Home a riveting theatrical experience. This journey is a moving, heartfelt and redeeming reflection of the human spirit.
At Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis, Chicago, IL, www.courtheatre.org, call 773-753-4472, tickets $40 -$60, Wednesday & Thursdays at 7:30, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2;30 & 7;30 pm, running time 1 hour and 50 minutes without intermission.