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June 19, 2024
There's No Place Like Home

Photo by Joan Marcus

Cephus Miles never wanted to leave his home in Crossroads, North Carolina. The central figure of the beautiful revival of Samm - Art Williams’s “Home” presented at Roundabout’s Todd Haimes Theatre, Cephus loves the farm where his grandpa and uncle raised him. His life changes considerably when they both die, and his girlfriend Pattie Mae goes off to college and then marries another man.

His situation becomes worse when he’s drafted. Citing the 10 Commandments, Cephus refuses to carry a gun and kill anyone, so he is tossed in jail for 5 years. Upon his release, home has become an unwelcoming place. He’s lost his land to taxes and going up North seems to be his only recourse.

Cephus becomes a reluctant participant in The Great Migration, a 20th century movement of around six million African Americans from rural Southern states. Like millions of other farmers, he travels to “The Promised Land.” But as Cephus learns, things aren’t better for him there.

The play opens with Cephus, now a broken man, seated in a rocking chair on the porch of his childhood home. He seems bewildered, and lost and his hand shakes. The local kids think he’s a ghost.

Some have likened the play to the Odyssey as Cephus struggles to find his way back home. Portraying Cephus, Tory Kittles is wonderful, touching and humble, damaged yet not embittered. Samm-Art Williams’ script is beautifully written, especially the poetic narration offered by an exceptionally talented pair of actresses, Brittany Inge and Stori Ayers. They serve as narrators and main characters, neighbors, old crones and everyone, other than Cephus. Directed by Kenny Leon, the show has slow moments but picks up at the end. Initially the dialogue is spoken rather quickly, and it takes time to get into the cadence.

“Home” includes all the elements of the classic “Hero’s Journey,” a story structure which follows a protagonist on an unforeseen quest, where he faces challenges, gains insights, and returns home transformed. However, often the hero in the story chooses to take the journey. The major difference is that Cephus never wished to take the journey. He wanted to stay home but forces outside his control made him leave.

With little to no set design, a rocking chair and a small platform in the center of the stage, and a trio of really talented performers, “Home” manages to tug at your heartstrings. In a brief 90 minutes, the audience journeys with Cephus as he finally obtains what was always important to him. But unlike Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, home, Cephus always knew there was no place like home. It is a rare drama that offers the audience a happy ending and the audience is uplifted when Cephus finally regains his home.

Todd Haimes Theatre
227 West 42nd Street,
New York, NY

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Written by: Elyse Trevers
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