Saturday, November 10, 2001

Samm-Art Williams’ play “Home,” written in the mid-1970s, has moments about as fresh as a shag rug. Yet the dynamic cast CrystalFox, Lynn Chavis and Godfrey L. Simmons Jr. possesses such energetic inventiveness and director Thomas W. Jones II maintains such a whirligig pace that the production glosses right over the rough spots.
“Home” is more a fable than a play, with predictable plot points and a happy ending you can see coming from the Beltway. The work charts the “I was lost, but now I’m found” progression of Cephus Miles (Mr. Simmons), a black man from a farming family in the tiny town of Crossroads, N.C.
Crossroads may be a dot on the map, but it is thick with colorful characters. Mr. Williams indulges his romantic streak when he has Cephus describe one resident who plays blues guitar with his arm stump (he lost his forearm hog-stealing). He also tells of an 80-pound hound dog bullied by a chicken and a local whose name, “Hard-Head Harold,” came about after he fell asleep under a truck with his head stuck between two tires and emerged with his noggin intact but the tires were busted.
Cephus loves the people of Crossroads, the Saturday night fish fries and his sweet, determined country gal, Pattie Mae (Miss Fox). He loves the land most of all, though, saying that when he holds plants in his hands he can “feel the heartbeat of God.”
There is much that tests this love, and ultimately Cephus leaves North Carolina for the citified North. He gives up his overalls for a pimp ensemble straight out of “Shaft” and the accompanying lifestyle. Booze, pills, fast women and fast living are all set to a frantic rock ‘n’ roll beat as Cephus tries to be a dude but ends up a near-homeless dud.
Cephus does what many of us do when we can’t keep up the dream and the artifice any longer: We go home. Back on the farm, he realizes the land has been waiting for his touch all this time and the farm isn’t the only one.
The three-member cast plays all the parts, and whenever the play falters into sentimentality, the actors respond with blasts of energy. Mr. Simmons is aglow with the glee of a natural-born storyteller as he regales us with tales about the people of Crossroads and those he encounters in the big, bad city.
Yet the women are the ones who really shine. Miss Chavis and Miss Fox overflow with humor and a dancing spirit whether they are playing taunting, noisy little girls preying on Cephus; country busybodies who bobble as if hooked up to a “Bootylicious” machine; or wise Greyhound bus drivers on Christmas Eve. Miss Fox portrays Pattie Mae with a sweetness and wide-eyed innocence that deepens into a quiet strength as she grows into adulthood. Miss Chavis is marvelous as the city siren who ensnares Cephus with her cheap Caribbean accent and fancy red dress.
Mr. Jones throws a lot of action, music and movement into “Home” to give the impression of life’s jumbled memories and how quickly the years rush by. It is a busy show, which is an asset given the play’s shortcomings.
The message of “Home” is that we all need a place to return to, where we can be our true selves and where it is perfectly fine to ask, “Who are your people?” To have that is not merely home,but heaven.

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WHAT: “Home”
Round House Theatre, 12210 Bushey Drive, Silver Spring
8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through Dec. 2. No performance Thanksgiving.
TICKETS: $23 to $31


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