HOME – Sometimes You “Can” Go Home Again

Home was originally produced by The Negro Ensemble Company in 1979, transferring to Broadway the next year, receiving a Tony nomination for Best Play.  Author Samm-Art Williams passed away at 78 just days before previews of this revival.

Cephus Miles (Tory Kittles) is born and bred to the land in North Carolina. His people are farmers. A stylized script includes considerable poetic description. We hear briefly about a mischievous childhood, his fair, disciplinarian grandpa, and ever present church. The hero feels he’s just where he should be. Girlfriend Patti Mae Wells (Brittany Inge) insists he be baptized, but still won’t have sex until they’re married. All is as expected.

Then, according to Cephus, God decides “to vacation in Miami.” Aunt and grandpa die. He faces the draft and declaring himself a conscientious objector, lands in prison where his moral perspective is considered un-American. Patti Mae goes to college in Virginia and eventually marries. The farm has to be sold.

Tory Kittles, Brittany Inge, Stori Ayers

Released from prison after an excessively long five years, he tries his lot in a big (unnamed) city only to be met with discrimination precipitating downward spiral. All other characters, male and female, are played by Brittany Inge and Stori Ayers who morph from one to the other with precision and sufficient exaggeration to define. We’re not always sure who they are, however. Additional narration keeps us at arms’ length.

It’s a case of you CAN go home again, when Cephus returns bowed but not beaten (a little too undetailed and smooth) to resume farming. Williams offers a happy ending.

Brittany Inge and Stori Ayers hold their own. The former excels as a young Pattie Mae, the latter as a frowsy, mercenary prostitute.  Both actors also sing excerpts from spirituals (well.)  

Tory Kittles’s performance is problematic:  The production’s choice to emphasize exposition makes everything a bit artificial. We don’t really care. Kittles does nothing to personalize his role. Habitual popped eye reaction is employed too often to distinguish emotion. The actor also seems to freeze expression, oblivious while others speak.

Brittany Inge, Tory Kittles, Stori Ayers

Director Kenny Leon keeps movement varied within a small staging area. Inge and Ayers morph through forty characters. Physical acting is expressive. Pace, however, is detrimental. Tory Kittles speaks as if he’s trying to cut one half hour off running time. Delivering so much information so fast makes it wash over without landing, leaving little credibility of the protagonist’s thought or feeling and no sympathy. While poetic text stylizes the play, without connection to the hero, we’re left with only that.

Set design by Arnulfo Maldonado is as effective, clever, and good looking as it is minimal. Allen Lee Hughes lighting surreptitiously enhances.

Photos by Joan Marcus

Roundabout Theatre Company presents
HOME by Samm-Art Williams
Directed by Kenny Leon

Through July 21, 2024
Todd Haimes Theatre 
227 West 42nd Street

About Alix Cohen (1775 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.