Friday, March 24, 2017

Review: The Past Echoes the Present

By Kaila M. Stokes

Feeling like you’re living in a world where your voice is not heard? Ever think that our government was never going to take us seriously unless we do something drastic? Should we send a violent message to President Trump? Congratulations, your views align with the Weathermen Underground of the late 1960’s and 1970’s. The Assembly Theater Project presents Home/Sick, directed by Jess Chayes, a play that explores these humans that were once a thorn in the government’s side. Some may call them anarchists, some heroes, but no matter your beliefs - you must be curious how the country let people get to feel so hopeless that violence was the only answer. Although set in the 60’s and 70’s this play is incredibly timely. It deals with the same questions people ask themselves today.
Home/Sick begins with helicopter sounds, actors at microphones trying to rally their angsty crowds, and an overall flood of noise that exposes one’s senses (Sound by Asa Wember). Then there we all are in the bunker of the Weathermen Underground! Six characters are on stage experiencing different levels of commitment and places in their lives, and yet they all ended up together in this one hideout for a cause that will mean the end for some of them. Anna, played by Emily Louise Perkins, is wide-eyed and completely naive to the world. She is the comic relief, often times chiming in when completely unexpected for humor that is welcomed since the topics ring so heavy. Bernard, played by Kate Benson, is the leader of this group. She guides people, fucks people, and overall is one of the people that allowed the Weathermen Underground to be as successful as they were even if it was short-lived. Paul, played by Luke Harlan, is a nervous-nelly and has a conscious greater than most of the others. His reasons for being there are very different from everyone else’s which ultimately allows him to break away before the group's demise. Tommy, played by Ben Beckley, was the playboy anarchist of the group. He had a knack for speaking to the public, but was not on-board with most of the violence that occurred. Kathy and David, played by Anna Abhau Elliott and Edward Bauer, were similar in that they had let their rage and conviction for “the cause” completely overtake them. It became about ego, which led to their fall. The entire cast was a unit, not one weak link. Their passion was so clear and appreciated by the audience. This may be because the cast were also the writers of this passion project.
photo by Nick Benacerraf
The story told was very interesting and dynamic, it had many great ideas! But in that, there were at times too many ideas. The play was very focused on the timeline of events, so the development of the characters suffered. Each character starts out all in with “the cause” and then slowly some become unhinged because of it and some simply don’t believe anymore. Because the events were being focused on, that transition got lost and happens a little too quickly on stage. As an audience member, you were invested in these characters and wanted to know when they shifted.
One of the most interesting parts of the show, was when each actor broke character and spoke into a microphone about why this story was important to them and how they got involved - this part was audience interactive. It made the audience feel like they were involved and had a place in the story as well. This was an idea that worked. The show is very long and there are places that could be buttoned-up a bit. The first act flowed well, but the second act drags. It would have been great if the first act held all of the events, then the second act was the unraveling of the Weathermen Underground and each of the characters. This would have given the story more of an arc and well-rounded feeling. It would have also allowed some of the unnecessary moments to be cut/edited down.
The set was created throughout the show which was visually stunning. Must have been awful for the stage manager (Anna Engelsman), but as an audience member to see the chaos created more and more throughout made it feel tangible. It was quite impressive that they made the entire space into their giant canvas. Home/Sick is an important piece to see, it really rings true with today’s society, unfortunately. The audience was full of both old and young - but their was a cohesiveness because the passion of the writers jumped out into the audience. Home/Sick is highly recommended even in it’s flaws, it is too relatable not to see.