Directed by David Feiner et al.
Playing at the Goodman Theatre
As poignant as it is touching, Home/Land keeps the DREAM alive.
Albany Park Theater Project (APTP) has brought its hit 2012 production of Home/Land to the Goodman’s Owen Theatre in an all-too-limited summer engagement. Performed by APTP’s own alarmingly talented young performers, this aggressively radical bit of agitprop hits like a roundhouse kick to the head. Its efforts to flesh out the lives of men and women most affected by the U.S.’s draconian immigration laws go well beyond any beltway consensus and is sure to make even the most well-meaning of urban liberals squirm uncomfortably in their seats.
Formally speaking, Home/Land brings all of its considerable assets to bear, seamlessly layering traditional sketches, interpretive movement, original music, and extended monologues into a near two hour piece full of more wit, wisdom, and humane compassion than is likely to be found on the floor of any state legislature at the moment. These kids know how severe the stakes are, and Home/Land almost tremors with a kind of raw immediacy, creating an unseen force which almost pushes you out of your seat and to your feet.
Not that Home/Land has to bludgeon you over the head. In fact, much of what it has to say is wrapped in moments of more subtle persuasion. Early on, for example, we meet a young Palestinian girl currently living as a refugee in Jordan. Hoping to raise money to buy her family’s passage to America, she is trying to sell her Teddy Bear. And then another toy. And then another. Each one representing some stage of her migration, her displacement, her life in exile. But the geopolitical realities she’s responding to linger deep beneath the surface, in places she only partly senses. What’s remarkable about Home/Land is that it makes its point without having to sacrifice genuine emotional complexity.
Nor does Home/Land shy away from some shockingly sharp political satire. One memorable sketch features Bob Whiteman, the menacing game show host of ‘Who Wants To Be An American?,’ giving yet “another undocumented immigrant” the chance to “prove his mettle” by “earning his stars and stripes.” Featuring a Lady Liberty-like cheerleader and an ‘American-looking’ (i.e., white) volunteer from the audience, the sketch shows that there’s a limit to how much a man can take, regardless of his supposed powerlessness and alleged ‘illegality.’
“Maybe the whole idea of borders is morally wrong?” Home/Land asks. A powerful idea, no doubt. And were it coming from the mouths of less self-aware babes, we might comfortably chalk it up to a naive idealism. But there’s nothing naive about Home/Land which knows only all too well the gap between dreaming and doing. Thus many of its stories focus on the deeds of activists and radicals whose personal stories of courage show us the power of exercising one’s voice.
Or limbs, for that matter. Stephanie Paul and Maggie Popadiak’s choreography is expressive and flawlessly executed. An opening sequence features a boat-load of immigrants helplessly tossing and turning atop the ocean, each cresting wave depicted in the contortion of bodies and faces, pained, exhausted, and very nearly hopeless. Another sequence—virtually a ballet set to spoken word—represents the ‘voluntary’ deportation of a working father, ripping him away from his wife and children.
With more than half of its 57,000 residents born outside of the U.S., the Albany Park community understands first-hand the deep impact these issues have on lives of real men and women. Hence APTP, responsible for over 50 productions since its founding in 1997, deserves dual credit. Not only for giving a voice to those so often unable to speak for themselves, but for also bringing that voice to those who need most to hear it.
“Do you know where you are?” asks one young rabble-rouser. If not, Home/Land will most certainly remind you.
Reviewed by Anthony J. Mangini
Reviewed Saturday, July 20th, 2013.
Running time is approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes with no intermission.
Home/Land runs until July 28th, 2013. The Goodman Theatre is located at 170 North Dearborn. For tickets call (312) 443-3800 or visit www.GoodmanTheatre.org/HomeLand. Check out their Theater in Chicago listing at https://www.theatreinchicago.com/homeland/6497/.