Home Free! - Lacking Something Essential

Comedy, Drama - http://www.staircasexi.com/

I looked this play up, because I know Lanford Wilson is famous and successful and I was certain that I was missing a really important piece of contextual information that would make the reason for performing this piece evident and everything would fall into place. From Wikipedia all I got was a lot of “it is implied that…” which, yes, I gathered from watching the play. Other reviews were less than helpful. I just feel like this story lacks context. It was one of his earlier plays, perhaps this is why it felt so... something. Emo? It felt like a young play. I’m not sure why Staircase Xi Theatre chose it. Perhaps a program note would have helped me.

As far as this particular rendition went, the actors obviously know what they’re doing. The direction was fine. I think the lighting effects were a little heavy handed, but I also thought the use of “real” effects was pretty cool. Lamps and a music box. A little creepy, could have gone even further.

The problem was, I just didn’t care. I didn’t understand why I was watching this story. The characters (or perhaps the actors) didn’t seem particularly invested in what they were doing. They got angry and petulant a lot and I spent the first 30 minutes wondering why this seemingly intense situation wasn’t affecting me. I should be shocked! I decided that a) there were no emotional stakes for the characters and b) the “imaginary” characters totally took me out of any connection I might be building with the two people on the stage. Other than to illustrate that Lawrence and Joanna aren’t quite all there, Edna and Claypone had no purpose! The interactions with them were boring, annoying and repetitive. I get that Joanna and Lawrence are “playing” at being adults; they are imitating what they have seen their parents do. But for people who constantly talk to imaginary friends, they have no imagination! And nothing escalates. Not until the very, very end when some true, deep emotion surfaced. It was a truly beautiful end to the piece. It changed the whole experience for me. I’m very glad I stayed.

I suppose it’s a play about mental illness, more on the neurosis spectrum than psychosis. It’s about incest and what it is to be an adult, or a child. It raises some interesting questions. But it feels more like a vignette than a complete one act. Perhaps in tandem with a few similar pieces it would make more sense?

It could be an interesting discourse if you’re into that sort of thing. And if you’re the type who enjoys Carol Churchill or Christopher Durang, go see it. You might have a different take than mine. If you do, please comment below. It’s obvious that a lot of love and hard work went into this play. I just seemed to have missed why.

By Danielle Benzon