Installation Art meets proscenium arch at Berkeley Rep’s Home.

See-through structure itself becomes a multi-faceted character housing a bevy of other characters in the Berkeley Rep’s “Home.” Photo courtesy of Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theater.

HOME: Performance Project by Geoff Sobelle. Scenic Concept by Steven Dufala. Original Songs by Elvis Perkins. Directed by Lee Sunday Evans. Berkeley Rep’s, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison St., Berkeley. (510) 647-2949. www.berkeleyrep.org. March 22–April 21, 2019.

Installation Art meets proscenium arch at Berkeley Rep’s Home. Rating: ★★★★★

The axiom that a house is not a home emphasizes “a house is just a physical structure, while a home is lived-in (often by a family) and full of memories.”  Geoff Sobelle’s performance piece will be ensconced at Berkeley Rep’s proscenium arch Roda Theatre for one month before heading off ( or continuing on) its tour of the world. Since there is barely enough dialog to cover a page of text it is the physicality of the staging and acting that give it a universal appeal. Sobelle asks us to forget about the Aristotelian concept of play writing with a beginning middle and end and first immerse yourself in the stage construction before deciphering the action playing out onstage involving individual characters doing individual activity, intermingling and non-intermingling with others without reference to time. Confusing? Yes, but brilliantly conceived and staged making almost complete sense of the action.

When you enter the theatre the stage is completely bare except for two stage lights on extended cords and a man putting together three sections of a wall that are to be the start of a house building. Helmeted construction workers move him aside and build the interior of a two story house complete with two bedrooms, one bath, kitchen with working lights, running water and a refrigerator that eventually becomes an entrance and exit for three or four people. No one is given names and there are only visual hints as to who is related to whom and what the time frame is of individual activity.

Sobelle’s players go about their daily choirs often with non-recognition of the others that may be there in a different time frame. They may in a different time frame but their actions are universal. The sleep, they shower, they brush their teeth, they use the toilet and even have a plunger to keep it working. Yet they use the same bed, closet, toilet, shower, kitchen without individual interactivity.

There are a multitude of individual vignettes to catch your fancy and the music created and played by Elvis Perkins on a zither, guitar and harmonica are the most memorable. A charming scene(s) involve personalizes your home with photographs attached to the wall at different times by different people.

Each actor is listed as “performer” and giving accolades to individuals is almost impossible. Doing so gives universality to the evening but it is frustrating trying to work out who is what to whom, so do not try. One charming relationship is mother to son of Sophie Bortolussi  to her son played by local eight-grade phenome David Rukin,

There are births, parties, dinners and death etc. Every so often a realtor moves through the house obviously showing it to a prospective buyer who will convert the house to a home in his/her image. Eventually the house is deconstructed leaving behind the detritus of those who have come and gone. Before that happens, the creators have added a semi-codicil with members of the audience brought on stage to actually be briefly integrated with the performers. The destruction of the house emphasizes that it is a temporal structure but the memories of home will persist.

Conclusion: This is avant-garde theatre brilliantly staged that is well worth a visit just missing a “must see” rating but still earns 5 stars. Running time100 minutes without intermission.

CAST: Sophie Bortolussi (Performer), Jennifer Kidwell (Performer), Justin Rose (Performer), Ching Valdes-Aran (Performer), Geoff Sobelle (Creator/Performer), and Elvis Perkins (Composer/Performer).

CREATIVE TEAM: Beth Morrison Projects (Producer), Lee Sunday Evans (Director), David Neumann (Choreographer), Steven Dufala (Scenic Designer), Karen Young (Costume Designer), Christopher Kuhl (Lighting Designer), Brandon Wolcott (Sound Designer), and Steve Cuiffo (Illusion Designer).

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.

Caption: Sophie Bortolussi (upper left) and Geoff Sobelle with Justin Rose (on the stairs, right), Jennifer Kidwell (stairs, center) and Ching Valdes-Aran in “Home” at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Photo: Kevin Berne, Berkeley Repertory Theatre.