By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Kyle Swenson
By David Villano
By Kyle Swenson
By John Thomason
By Michele Eve
No, the power of Home comes from its sweet retelling of now-eternal themes: the widening divide between rural and urban values; communities that are destroyed when individuals are separated from their homes or leave because the land can't give them all they need. "I can't grow fat and old and slow breeding babies in a dusty old farmhouse," Pattie Mae tells her Cross Roads friends. "The socioeconomic standards are no longer to my liking."
Williams' nostalgia-drunk dialogue remakes this familiar story into something that's fresh and new, full of affectionate images. In one aside, Cephus tells us about a second cousin who learns from watching her pet rooster intimidate the family dog that "this was a sign from God that short people had permission to beat up on large people." Later, as Cephus winds his way back to Cross Roads, Williams has his chorus point out that although the bus passes tenements and slums, on this night the travelers' perception of the world is rosy, because it's Christmas Eve.
In broad comic strokes, the playwright paints the activity within the bus itself. "Like a shoebox full of chickens," is how Cephus describes it, noting that "the Greyhound bus is a Negro institution," overflowing with crying babies, smelly feet, and ne'er-do-wells offering passengers drinks of "gin and beer." As for Cephus himself, nervous to return after 13 years away, the Santa Claus-like bus driver exhorts, "Don't worry how you look, just get on board."
You'll get on board, too, after sitting through just a few minutes of Home. Though technically confined on a set made of $50 worth of hardware (a wooden fence defines the perimeter of the performance space, where the only furniture is Cephus' front-porch rocking chair and a few boxes moved around to suggest other objects), the production easily lends itself to the audience's imagination. Director Jerry Maple, Jr. moves his three-person cast with a sophisticated choreography of comings and goings, costume changes, and transformations of age and sex.
Although both Reid and Richardson are deft and appealing performers, the show belongs to Nathan Andrew. As Cephus he never flags from delivering a performance in a role that's as physically demanding as it is emotionally authentic. He's an old man and a young man, a hipster ("I am... so cool"), a farmer down on his luck, a jailbird, and a free spirit, all in the space of two hours. For a theatergoer looking to be transported out of the day-to-day, Andrew's acting is an open door.
Written by Samm-Art Williams. Directed by Jerry Maple, Jr. Starring Nathan Andrew, Tara Reid, and Shirley Richardson. Through June 27. M Ensemble, 12320 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami, 305-895-8955.