Home, Chicago Theatre Company.
The play opens with a man performing his morning ablutions as he sings a jubilant hymn to the dawn. In the foreground, off to one side, a woman mimes the daily tasks of farm life. At the other side of the stage another woman recites an ode to the "children of the land / the babies of the soil." With these three elements of communication--music, dance, and poetry, perfectly balanced in rhythmic counterpoint--the geography and morality of Samm-Art Williams's Home are established.
The plot of this parable is commonplace enough: a naive youth, Cephus Miles, is forced to leave home and endure hardships before returning, a better man for his experience. What enables this odyssey to transcend its mundane roots is the vivid panorama it engenders. Chiefly responsible for the transformation are Lisa Biggs and Linda M. Bright, who together portray an astonishing array of citizens as well as such abstractions as a summer night in the country and the relentless tempo of the big city. Surrounded by their activity, Freeman Coffey's Cephus is a protagonist as humble and heroic as a figure in a WPA mural.
In less capable hands, the kaleidoscopic approach taken by the Chicago Theatre Company could easily have yielded a multimedia hodgepodge. But director Phillip Edward VanLear carefully orchestrates his physical and aural inventions, keeping them clean and uncluttered and producing a richly textured masterpiece of storytelling, as universal in its appeal as it is impressive in its workmanship.