Monday, May 21, 2012

Maria Vacratsis and Oliver Dennis

The current production of David Storey’s Home is a bafflingly beautifiul production of somewhat surreal proportions. It is a difficult play to stage and an even more difficult play to review without marking every sentence with spoiler alerts. Nevertheless, one will attempt to carry on wordily through a maze of dialogue and performance for a few rnadcap moments of constructive critique.


The ensemble cast is flawless, so to speak, in a drama entirely populated by the flawed, the furious, and the frequently funny. Oblique characters come alive in varied tones  in the hands of Oliver Dennis, Maria Vacratsis, Brenda Robins, and Michael Hanrahan - and the rather thankless but delightfully strange performance by Andre Sills as the outdoor-furniture wielding bit of brawny fifth business.

Andre Sills

As the female tier of two gendered duos, Vacratsis and Robins work well off of each other and deliver quirky and powerful performances as two women trying desperately to bond within distressing circumstances. Robins’ stylized staccato laughter is especially infectious, and Vacratsis delivers her brilliant signature causticism with impeccable timing and engaging, wildly humorous gloom. Hanrahan and Dennis play off the two strong women with a subtle charm and withdrawn melancholy that ebbs and flows as the interaction between the foursome evolves.

But in the end one wonders about a play of this ‘nature’ - and that may very well be part of the point of Storey’s treatise on maladjustment. Original productions had the likes of John Geilgud and Ralph Richardson coming up baffled by the pauses and the obtuse references to pasts that seem to have pathologized the characters within very bleak and trying environments. Home represents a series of brief engagements as four social outcasts meet, greet, and try to find enough chairs for everyone to be seated.

Albert Shcultz’ direction is spare and effective, with moments of bewildering silence that absurdism demands, and yet a vertiginous soundscape, or an infectious, explosive way of ending a sentence here and there might have provided clues earlier on regarding the very bewildered narrative that never quite presents itself fully.

The overall drama is skillfully enlivened by a huge mesmerizing back screen that simply states - like the paradoxically kinetic inertia of a painting by Magritte - that time is passing as blue skies and pillowy clouds morph and metabolize around us.

This classic 1970’s unwieldy stage vehicle is well worth seeing as an infectious example of  a kind of strained naturalism that masquerades as absurdism. And yet, without revealing too much about a drama that has become famous for its rather impenetrable surface of dialogic weirdness, absurdism only applies when the events cannot actually happen within the realm of logical and explicable human exchange. Alas, the most frightening, compelling, and uncomfortably entertaining aspect of Storey’s play lies in the fact that these people can exist, and do, and must struggle with the timing, the interaction, the society, and the all of the conflicted cues, mishaps, and light conversational entanglements that mark their very mangled, measured days.  


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