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Entertainment & Arts

Review: Now you live here, now you don’t. How ‘Home’ works its magic at the Broad Stage

A scene from Geoff Sobelle’s “Home,” now at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica.
A scene from Geoff Sobelle’s “Home,” now at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica.
(Sea Sloat)

“Home,” Geoff Sobelle’s mercurial meditation on the physical spaces that contain our lives, is a magic poof of scenic theater. A silent movie conjured through the ingenuity of simple stagecraft, the show glides from domestic image to domestic image with the alacrity of a dream.

At the Broad Stage, where this hallucinatory visual poem runs through Sunday, a home is assembled before our eyes. Sobelle, a kinetic performer trained in the arts of clowning and mime, slides a few panels of the frame of a house across the stage and proceeds to attach a plastic tarp with a staple gun.

In the time it takes to say “voilà!” rooms emerge from behind this makeshift magician’s screen. The outline of a split-level home, with a bedroom, bathroom and study upstairs and a dining room, kitchen and den downstairs, springs into material existence.

Sobelle and six other cast members (Sophie Bortolussi, Justin Rose, Jennifer Kidwell, Ching Valdes-Aran, Arlo Petty and musician-composer Elvis Perkins) gracefully flesh out this dwelling with fixtures and furnishings. An area rug and dining-room table turn a building site into a home. A toilet and sink hauled upstairs ballast illusion with ceramic reality.

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Making themselves at “Home” at the Broad Stage.
Making themselves at “Home” at the Broad Stage.
(Sea Sloat)

Lives flicker into view. The identities of these inhabitants remain a mystery. Are they related or merely successive residents of the same address? When Sobelle and Petty share the stage, is Sobelle’s figure seeing himself as a boy, raising a son or merely coexisting in different time lines?

The fluidity is a source of this production’s power. “Home” moves kaleidoscopically. An enchanting early sequence occurs after a bed frame is brought upstairs. Turning in for the night, Sobelle falls asleep only to have another performer rise in the morning, one life giving way to another in a cycle most of us remain happily oblivious to when brushing our teeth or gathering up the recycling.

All the world’s a stage, and every house is a set wherein individuals enact their private dramas. “In the unrecorded moment you star in/your own life,” Perkins intones in one of his moody folk elegies that provide a Bob Dylan-esque wave for the production to ride on.

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David Mamet brought “The Christopher Boy’s Communion” to the Odyssey Theatre with Rebecca Pidgeon, William H. Macy, Clark Gregg and Fionnula Flanagan.

Sobelle isn’t as flamboyantly acrobatic as he was in “The Object Lesson,” the piece about archives and memory that he performed to the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2015. But he similarly incorporates audience members into the show.

My companion was enlisted and, before I knew it, this sedate mother of three was partying onstage with cast members in a series of festivities that eventually had her donning a Santa Claus suit. (Let the record show that this uncredited performer was a sunshiny delight.)

This conscripting of theatergoers may seem like a gimmick, but the more populous the production becomes, the more moving its effect. It’s not the decor, after all, that gives a house its soul, but the people who are welcomed into the space and the relationships that make history worth remembering.

A house comes alive in Geoff Sobelle’s “Home.”
A house comes alive in Geoff Sobelle’s “Home.”
(Sea Sloat)

I’ve lived in five places since I moved to Los Angeles in 2005, and though my current home is near the previous four and I purposely drive past them when nearby, I never think about the residents who have supplanted me. What draws me back are the personal memories these addresses provoke and what compels me to drive off is the reminder of how easily one reality can be packed away.

Prospero in “The Tempest” makes an analogy between the “insubstantial pageant” of theater and existence itself. Both are structured around entrances and exits. Tenancy, as “Home” stunningly illustrates, observes the same pattern.

When moving boxes appear, a melancholy permeates the production. But the feeling is more reflective than sad. And the sublimity of the theatrical presentation is a cause for joy.

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The staging, exploiting every removable facet of Steven Dufala’s nimble scenic design, is itself a miraculous vanishing act. Christopher Kuhl’s lighting subtly shades our emotional experience, Steve Cuiffo’s illusion design releases us into the surreal, Brandon Wolcott’s sound design chatters suggestively in the absence of a spoken script and David Neumann’s choreography allows the company to float.

It’s understandable to have some trepidation going to the theater right now. The first thing I did after entering the Broad Stage was wash my hands. But “Home” is a tonic for the mind, a lovely, lyrical distraction from the frightfulness of the news that had me looking at my surroundings more tenderly when I returned home.

'Home'
Where: The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday; ends Sunday

Tickets: Start at $59

Info: (310) 434-3200, thebroadstage.org

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes (no intermission)


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