“Home” resonates with the power of place

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A man is standing between two women who are looking at hime.
(l to r): Stori Ayers (Woman Two), Tory Kittles (Cephus Miles), Brittany Inge (Woman One / Pattie Mae Wells) and in Roundabout Theatre Company’s new Broadway production of Home by Samm-Art Williams, directed by Kenny Leon.
Three people (one man and two women) are sitting on a bench.
(l to r): Tory Kittles (Cephus Miles), Brittany Inge (Woman One / Pattie Mae Wells), and Stori Ayers (Woman Two) in Roundabout Theatre Company’s new Broadway production of Home by Samm-Art Williams, directed by Kenny Leon.

Samm-Art Williams (1946-2024) was an actor and playwright whose works spoke to the African American experience. His most acclaimed play, Home, written in 1979, is a testament to the healing power of one’s homeland — both one’s home and the land one works. It is beautiful and comic, it is poetic and heartbreaking, and it is a masterful examination of the survival of the human spirit.

New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company has mounted a revival of Home at its flagship Todd Haimes Theatre on 42nd Street. Since Mr. Williams passed away just days before rehearsals were to start, director Kenny Leon and the members of the cast — Tory Kittles, Brittany Inge, and Stori Ayers — have offered up their talents as a tribute to Williams’ masterpiece. They have succeeded in making this production of Home a shining example of his artistry with words and a fitting memorial to his playwriting skill.

We follow the story of Cephus Miles (Kittles), a North Carolina farmer in love with the land — and with his childhood sweetheart, Pattie Mae Wells (Inge). While Cephus is content with small-town life and his farm, Pattie Mae is looking to leave that kind of life behind. She ends up going to college and meeting a “more suitable” mate. Cephus gets in trouble with the law and ends up in jail; on his release, he also heads for the city but finds his felony conviction keeps him from getting any kind of decent job. On the edge of destitution, finding solace in alcohol, drugs, and random encounters with women (Inge and Ayers in multiple roles), he spirals downward until he resigns himself to going back to his hometown.

Roundabout’s technical team — scenic designer Arnulfo Maldonado, lighting designer Allen Lee Hughes, and sound designer Justin Ellington — skillfully create Cephus’ two worlds. The bucolic farmland consists of several rows of tall crops, behind which are rolling green fields, and a front porch. Black panels move in from the sides and down from above to create a space in the shape of a house with a chimney for interior scenes.

The city, by contrast, is a nightmarish, faceless gray-and-brown world of ladders, walls, platforms, and a red-lit crucifix. Dede Ayite’s costumes match Cephus’ situation in life while her costumes for the two women run the gamut from innocent schoolgirl to over-flashy good-time girl, quickly delineating the multiple characters played by Inge and Ayers.

I think it is safe to say that Home is as powerful a piece today as it was when it was first presented 45 years ago. Samm-Art Williams’ characters are living, breathing people that one cannot help but empathize with, and his words carry the ring of truth and the power of simplicity. The Roundabout Theatre Company has done right by Williams and in so doing has honored his memory and burnished his reputation. Home will only run for a short time, and I urge you to make the trip into New York to see this powerful, beautiful production.

Home is presented by the Roundabout Theatre Company at the Todd Haimes Theatre, 227 West 42nd Street in New York through July 21, 2024. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to roundabouttheatre.org or call 212-719-1300.

Allen Neuner
Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first Broadway play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. Allen has been accepted into the American Theatre Critics Association, a professional organization of theatre journalists. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.