One man’s story. A parable. Searing social commentary. A fairytale. A slice of history. You could apply any of these descriptions to Samm-Art Williams’ 1979 play Home, a breakthrough script from the Negro Ensemble Company that was nominated for a 1980 Tony Award. The Cincinnati Playhouse produced it in 1981, but it’s not been seen locally since. Queen City Theater has imported the veteran professional cast of a much-praised production from Chicago’s Court Theatre for a staging at the School for Creative and Performing Arts’ Mayerson Theater.
Kamal Bolden plays an everyman character, the Cephus Miles, a poor farmer from rural North Carolina whose life is traced from the late 1950s to the late 1970s. After a sweetly innocent adolescence, his religious upbringing leads him to refuse induction into the Army during the Vietnam War.
He lands in prison, the first stop on a downward spiral through poverty, drug and alcohol dependency, prostitution and unemployment. Only when he is given the opportunity to return home to his farm after an absence of 13 years does his life begin to heal.
Ashley Honore and Tracey Bonner round out the cast, convincingly playing more than 30 people in Miles’ life — lovers, relatives, neighbors, slick drug dealers, curious kids, hard-nosed soldiers and violent prison guards. Home is presented with humor and musicality anchored in Miles’ sunny personality, but it’s also a hard tale of segregation and intolerance, tempered by the evolution through time to greater understanding at a personal and societal level. Bolden conveys Miles’ story — told through lively anecdotes — with humanity and a universality that anyone can relate to.
This worthy 105-minute production deserves better audiences than it had for its opening weekend. (Fewer than 30 people were in attendance on Aug. 27 in a theater with a much larger capacity.)
HOME, presented by Queen City Theater, continues until Sept. 18. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.