ArtsEmerson's "Home": Constructive

The Cast of  "Home"
(photo: Evgenia Eliseeva)

ArtsEmerson's latest offering, Home, begins on an almost-bare stage, gradually evolving into a structure that will shape and shift with its depiction of successive inhabitants over an unspecified period of time with virtually no dialog. In so doing, it intentionally and ingeniously blurs the differentiation between theatrical forms, ultimately defying conventional categorization. It's part performance art, part mime, part art installation, and part traditional theater. Created by, and featuring, Geoff Sobelle, in collaboration with his talented group of performers Sophie Bortolussi, Jennifer Kidwell, Elvis Perkins, Justin Rose, Ching Valdes-Aran and Josh Crouch, it's your dream fantasy of a house party, with more than enough heart to make this house a home. As performed at the Robert J. Orchard Stage in the Paramount Center, it's enough to banish any thought of taking HGTV seriously again.

The work, as Sobelle has noted, is dedicated to the “sublime ridiculous”, and he suggests we hang onto our seats (almost literally) while we temporarily inhabit them, a worthy metaphor for the transitory occupation taking place on stage. As the company of seven (or perhaps more?) depicts the cyclical goings-on, one can't help but marvel at the subtle rhythms of life being presented, under the painstakingly timed guidance of Director Lee Sunday Evans and, even more crucially, the exquisite harmony conducted by Choreographer David Neumann. It makes for a visually overwhelming display of comic precision (reminiscent of such previous pieces of theater like Noises Off or parts of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), culminating in a virtuosic Pandora's Box of pure magic.

The Cast of "Home"
(photo: Evgenia Eliseeva)

With elegiac Original Music by Elvis Perkins, the spectacularly functional Scenic Design by Steven Dufala, multifaceted Costume Design by Karen Young, complex Lighting Design by Christopher Kuhl and split-second Sound Design by Brandon Wolcott, it's a technical marvel from start to finish, often as the result of the contribution of Illusion Consultant Steve Cuiffo.

While it takes its own tantalizingly languid time to get started, once the house (and the play) fully take shape, it has an almost non-stop flow of meticulous joy (and sometimes sorrow) as it takes us on an unpredictable and involving ride through the life and lives of the structure we witnessed grow and prosper. In a few brief instances, notably when audience members (or were they?) get involved, less disciplined bits threaten to go off the tracks. Not to worry, however, as this team ultimately has everything well in hand. It's difficult to convey how incredibly moving it can be to watch the recreated memories of what a house can contain, from birthdays to weddings to wakes. It's all over in a swift ninety minutes, and seems to end just when and how it should; like the reconstructed and deconstructed set in which it dwelled, its work over, the shared experience has been wise and witty, hearty and hilarious, lively and life-affirming.

The excitement will be building through October 1st.

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