Simon Jones and Larry Keith in Home
(© Stephen Kucken)
Simon Jones and Larry Keith in Home
(© Stephen Kucken)
The simple charms of David Storey's 1970 play Home cannot be denied, and this revival by The Actors' Company Theatre (TACT) is thoroughly enchanting and superbly acted.

Home begins with the meeting of two elderly British gentlemen, Harry (Larry Keith) and Jack (Simon Jones). Their often inane conversation touches upon numerous subjects ranging from the weather, the day's news, various relatives, and abandoned career paths. But even as they speak, one gets the sense that there's something not quite right. The dialogue is full of non sequiturs, fragmented speech, and Pinteresque pauses. The actors' vocal inflections, facial expressions, and body language are nearly cartoonish, inspiring laughter without ever seeming unbelievable.

The arrival of Marjorie (Cynthia Harris) and Kathleen (Cynthia Darlow) bring the level of absurdity up a notch. Kathleen is plagued by shoes that are too tight and a tendency to hitch her skirt up. Meanwhile, Marjorie seems more than a little paranoid. As they interact, the neuroses of all four characters become increasingly apparent, as does the reason for why they are all there. For those unfamiliar with Storey's play, the rest of this review demands the revelation of a major spoiler, namely that the play takes place in a mental institution.

While the playwright certainly approaches his material with a comic flair, there's also a sadness and dignity to these mental patients that inspires compassion and empathy. They don't appear crazy so much as they seem ill at ease with living in the world. The play doesn't dwell on why they've all been committed as much as it does their attempts to achieve a level of normalcy despite their present situation.

Director Scott Alan Evans alternates between quickly delivered dialogue and pauses that intentionally break the momentum. He's also assembled an excellent cast to inhabit Storey's play. Keith subtly hints at his character's problems from his first entrance, revealing a slight shake of the hands as he lays his gloves on top of his hat. His eyes reveal a sadness which never gets fully articulated but does bubble up to the surface upon occasion. Jones has a rubbery face and endows Jack with a chipper disposition. Yet, when a conversation approaches an unpleasant topic, he experiences a momentary flash of panic and attempts to change the subject or achieve a level of blankness that will enable him to ignore what's going on.

Harris' body language demonstrates the tensions Marjorie holds onto so tightly, and her nasty exchange with Kathleen in the second act is surprising, yet not completely unexpected. Darlow has a fantastic screech of a laugh that's used to good effect, and radiates an aura of pleasant joviality that belies her character's suicidal impulses. Rounding out the cast is Ron McClary as Alfred, an inmate who has a tendency to randomly lift and move pieces of furniture. While not given much to do, McClary has a strong presence and a slightly menacing air that contributes to the tension within the play.

Mimi Lien's set, with its neatly trimmed hedges, provides the perfect backdrop for Home. It immediately creates the sense of an artificially ordered environment that seems just a little too perfect to be true. David Toser's costumes are spot on and the chirping birds in Daryl Bornstein's sound design add just the right touch of idyllic tranquility. Lighting designer Mary Louise Geiger subtly alters the mood of the play, particularly with a gradual dimming of the lights throughout the final scene as the sun sets.

On the surface, there's not much that happens in Home. Yet Storey has created a compelling work that's full of humor tinged by a deeply felt sadness and poignancy .