Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Also see Nicole's review of Falsettos
Visually captivating and exquisitely executed, Geoff Sobelle's Home embraces all the ordinary moments that compound to make a life, from brushing our teeth and rummaging through the fridge to honoring major milestones like funerals and graduations. This stunning piece of physical theater arrives fresh from a run in Hong Kong, appearing at Berkeley Repertory Theatre through April 21st.
Home opens on a black and empty stage, save for a man (Sobelle) manipulating a bare wooden frame in the foreground. Then, suddenly, a bed and lamp appear from the shadows as if by magic. A beam of light conjures a door from the darkness. Sobelle strips down to his underclothes and disappears beneath the bed sheets, an older woman emerging in his place mere seconds later. Performers enter and exit in rapid succession, wordlessly enacting the various things we do and feel inside a bedroomtossing and turning in the night, tucking children in to sleep, quarreling with lovers.
Within minutes, a conventional two-story suburban house has materialized before our eyes, inhabited by the apparitions of residents past and present whose daily motions play out like the steps of an elaborate dance. Doors open while others close in perfect synchronicity. Performers vanish through invisible exits. We watch them pile into the bathroom unaware of one another, rotating through the shower like riders on a carousel. Piece by piece, a home is built and torn apart again in front of us like a three-dimensional collage in a time warp, each resident leaving a distinctive mark.
Lighting designer Christopher Kuhl makes masterful use of light and shadow. Morning sun creeps in with remarkable precision, accompanied by a chorus of birds and barking dogs. Brandon Wolcott's hypnotic sound design is punctuated by visitations from an otherworldly folksinger (Elvis Perkins) in a white suit and hat, who wanders through the set strumming haunting lullabies on various stringed instruments. "In the unrecorded moments," he sings, "You will star in your own life."
The action culminates in an epic celebration, revolving seamlessly from dinner party to baby shower, surprise birthday bash to wedding, and Halloween to New Year's Eve. Sobelle and his dexterous crew invite the audience to join the festivities, stringing lights about the theater as the frenzy of clinking glasses and cheerful dancing grows onstage. And just like that, a community is born. We are no longer outsiders looking in. But the fun must come to an end, as all good things eventually do, and people and things disperse.
It's perhaps a lingering sense of loss that makes the whole experience so meaningful. Home reminds us that everything is temporary, that there is beauty in the ordinary, and that a house is just a space in which we come together to create a life.
Home, through April 21st, 2019, at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2015 Addison Street, Berkeley CA. Tickets range from $30 - $97, and are available by calling the box office at 510-647-2949 or by visiting www.berkeleyrep.org.
Production Stage Manager: Lisa McGinn
Additional Vocals by The Crossing