If home is where the heart is, Fleetwood-Jordain’s production of Home found mine and completely claimed it.
The story touches the soul, but it’s the performances that make the on-stage magic.
The plot is touching.
A young, black third-generation farmer in South Carolina, Cephus Miles, falls victim to his girlfriend’s temptation to better herself and go to college rather than marry him as they both planned.
“Take it to the city” is the mantra that tells a history about the Black migration north and what that cost in terms of losing roots and family connections.
Although Cephus (Lewon Johnson) thinks God, when he needs him, is always taking a vacation in Miami, he still believes in the commandments, especially, “Thou shall not kill.” The mood on stage changes when Cephus declares himself a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War and serves time in prison because of it.
His actions cost him the farm and his life is uprooted. He thinks the city, the migration north, will be his salvation. It almost proves to be his destruction.
Although Home is a personal story about one young Black man, it is also about the costs of the Black migration to the north and the cities. But the theme is universal: when people get uprooted, by choice or by circumstance, the losses to their past and their community are inevitable.
The story touches the soul of people from any background who lose their past when they leave the place they called home.
Talking about the performances is hard because so much is happening.
Two actresses play numerous roles. Rachel Blakes is Pattie Mae, Cephus’ girlfriend but she is also 10 other characters. Tuesdai Perry plays as many different characters as well.
They don’t change costumes but they change voice and mannerisms. And each character they play is more surprising and effective than the next. They strut, they sing, they recite poetry and they prophesize. Sometimes they are like a Greek chorus and sometimes like taunting demons.
Although Johnson plays one character, he goes through years of changes. He is young and naïve; he is lost and alone; he is an addict and a survivor. In each age and experience, Johnson captures the essence of being Cephus Miles.
So many mannerisms, so many character changes and so much physical interaction. Special credit should go to Tim Rhoze, director, who makes it all work.
While the performance is dramatic, the dialogue is so lyrical it’s almost musical. In talking about being part of the land, a character says, “When you put a plant in your hand, you hear the heartbeat of God.” Cephus has to admit that God is not always taking a vacation on the beaches of Miami.
“Come home, children of the land,” is the heartbreaking and breathtaking message of Home.
Fleetwood-Jordain Theatre is an Evanston gem.
Home continues performances on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. through June 19 at Noyes Cultural Arts Center at 927 Noyes St. Tickets are $30 with a $5 discount available with the code: HOME, making the cost $25. Proof of vaccination and mask wearing during performances are mandatory.