Also see Fred's review of Half a Sixpence
David Storey's play opened in London in 1970 yet is appropriate fare for the current day. Silver-haired Harry (Philip Goodwin) sits with Jack (Richard Easton), a dapper dresser who wears a hat and possesses viewpoints on most any matter, in an urban garden area near what seems to be a brick apartment building. A very blue sky and some rear greenerydesigns created by Tobin Ostprovide backdrop for talk and more talk. These two men converse about parents, cliff jumps, vegetarianism ... . Harry has heard it said of musicians: "The best of them have very curly hair." Then there's a card trick. Okay, so what?
Two women, past midpoint of the opening act, enter. Marjorie (Dana Ivey) is sharp and acerbic while Kathleen (Roberta Maxwell), hobbling due to ill-fitting shoes, cannot help but flirt. Kathleen tends to giggle while Marjorie is tight lipped. The men and women sit around for a bit before all leave for lunch.
After they return, Home, which certainly has more than its share of comedic moments, grows serious. It becomes evident that these individuals are lonely and that each manifests and responds differently. Both of the men tend to cry easily.
A fifth character, Alfred (C.J. Wilson), demonstrates some bizarre, innocuous behavior. As an example, he lifts a white, wrought iron chair above his head and leaves the stage. Alfred seems to be giving the impression that the piece of furniture is exceptionally heavy; it is not.
Finally, one discovers that the scene actually transpires on the grounds of an asylum for older people. Or does it? During the 1960s, the Scottish psychoanalyst R.D. Laing suggested that the line between sanity and insanity was a thin if not invisible one. Laing had patients and doctors swapping roles or positions at a facility. Harry, Jack, Marjorie, and Kathleen come across as: lively, spirited, eccentric. Yet they are situated within or about the grounds of an asylum. Who or what is mad?
Joseph Hardy, as director, creates plenty of space for the five actors. Confining or constricting them would be a mistake. The acting team is seasoned and the participants respond when granted the opportunity to develop their characters. Home, too, is a play about the value of friendship. Without companions, any of these individuals would, no doubt, be driven to despair and/or depression. A community of two, though, is still a community. Storey, himself, said, "Halfway through the writing I discovered it was taking place in a lunatic asylum." When John Gielgud performed in the play, he was initially "mystified."
Critics have recommended that Home is evocative of works by Harold Pinter or Samuel Beckett. Rather, I would suggest that the script is unique. Sometimes, the dialogue is jaunty and, at other moments, wry or even dark. At one point, Kathleen says to Harry, "I don't know what you're saying half the time."
Throughout, Home explores conditions and circumstances we humans ponder and consider. There is a universality to that difficult theme.
Home continues at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, Massachusetts through August 24th. For ticket information, please call (413) 597-3400 or visit www.wtfestival.org.
Photo: T. Charles Erickson
- Fred Sokol