Roundabout’s superlative revival of ‘Home’ opens at Broadway’s Todd Haimes Theatre

It’s been more than four decades since Samm-Art Williams’ Tony-nominated play Home, originally presented by the Negro Ensemble Company in 1979, was seen on Broadway, and the new production by Roundabout Theatre Company, now playing a limited engagement at the Todd Haimes Theatre, is well worth the wait. Masterfully directed by Kenny Leon and dedicated to Williams, who passed away peacefully on May 13, just days before previews began, the powerful and uplifting three-hander is performed by an exceptional cast that brings all the spirited characters and profound emotions, poetic passages and bits of humor to life, in stellar performances that keep us captivated, make us laugh, and touch our hearts.

Brittany Inge, Tory Kittles, and Stori Ayers. Photo by Joan Marcus.

At once intimately personal and insightfully universal in its vision of the indomitable American spirit, the Black experience, and the human search for acceptance, belonging, and the place that is home, the go-back story follows the journey of Cephus Miles from the 1950s to the present, beginning with his childhood and youth on his family’s farm in North Carolina. We hear accounts of his broken engagement to his high-school sweetheart Pattie Mae Wells, who left for college, married another man, and relocated from the small town, his five-year prison sentence for refusing, as a pacifist, to serve in the Vietnam War, the loss of his beloved family members and the farm, his failed move to NYC in an attempt to start a new life, and his return home after ten years away, in the new era of Civil Rights and racial integration. It’s all conveyed with fluid transitions, non-stop energy, rapid-fire deliveries, and compelling empathy that leaves us caring about him and rooting for his happiness.

Tory Kittles’ impeccable portrayal of Cephus hits all the right notes, believably aging, limping, and embodying a range of emotions, telling the stories of the people and events that shaped him, speaking in an everyday southern patois interspersed with eloquent poetic observations, having recurrent visions of his never forgotten lost love, embracing both the joy and pain of his life and memories, and rendering him deeply committed, at times vulnerable, and always fully human and relatable.

Tory Kittles, Brittany Inge, and Stori Ayers. Photo by Joan Marcus.

He is joined by the equally superb Brittany Inge and Stori Ayers – all three in their Roundabout debuts – as an array of more than 40 other figures who impacted him, including Inge’s portrayal of the different ages, situations, and attitudes of Pattie Mae. The two women act as a kind of Greek chorus, commenting on Cephus’s actions, singing passages of Gospel songs, quoting the Bible, and reminding him of the teachings of the Church (in which he believes, though he says his calls to the Lord have gone unanswered because He’s on vacation in Miami!), while making quick changes of costume accessories (costumes by Dede Ayite and hair and wigs by Nikiya Mathis), adopting appropriate accents and demeanors that clearly distinguish each character (with Kate Wilson serving as voice coach), and never missing a beat in their flawless fast-paced performances and transformations. Together, the three offer both a thoroughly engrossing memory play and a master class in acting, recounting an entire lifetime over the course of a riveting 90 minutes.

Stori Ayers, Tory Kittles, and Brittany Inge. Photo by Joan Marcus.

A simple but transporting artistic design, centered on Cephus’s rocking chair on a platform before rows of corn and a sweeping view of the field, takes us from the farm to the city and into the bus back home with a few easy changes of seats, the downstage drop of a silhouetted house, urban buildings with metal fire escapes that slide in from the wings, and background projections (set by Arnulfo Madonado), accented by evocative sound (by Justin Ellington) and lighting (by Allen Lee Hughes) that indicates the times of day, weather conditions, and mood, and shines a spotlight on the actors speaking. And it’s all done smoothly and easily, without ever detracting from the top-notch cast and storytelling.

Though the new 2024-25 Broadway season is just beginning, I have no doubt that this unforgettable production is sure to garner nominations across all categories for every theater award there is in NYC. The story, cast, direction, and design are supremely expressive, entertaining, and affecting, and make Home a must-see show, so get your tickets while you can. The only question I have is why this deserving masterpiece never won a Pulitzer Prize.

Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, without intermission.

Home plays through Sunday, July 21, 2024, at the Todd Haimes Theatre, 227 West 42nd Street, NYC. For tickets (priced at $49-149, including fees), go online.


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