The Ridgelea Reports on Theatre

"Coming Home" at Long Wharf Theatre through February 8

The importance of theater is that when it is well presented it achieves an act of worship. The production of Athol Fugard’s "Comng Home," playing at Long Wharf, is a perfect example of that truth, and very, very, worth a visit from you.

The story of Veronica Jonkers return from the bigness of Capetown to her home town in the Karoo - Nieu Bethesda - could be overwhelming in its sadness. She brings her four year old son to live where she had grown up with her grandfather watching over her, but she also brings a vicious secret. Capetown was not the great success she had so wanted. Veronica has AIDS. The sickness will not go away, and she must keep it a secret so that Mannetjie can go to school and be accepted in this little community.

Caught in a trap of who will raise Mannetjie when she is no longer there, Veronica - by sheer willpower - arranges a marriage with her childhood friend, Alfred, and forces her son to respect him even while she is dying.

Shudder if you will, but the beauty of the young boy fighting against Alfred, because he is not literate, because he is an outsider, because Veronica is dying, and then finally becoming closer to him, is a parable of hope that way overrides the despair of the tale.

Scattered throughout the telling is the image of Oupa - the grandfather who kept the pumpkin seeds in a special can to be well planted so they would grow big the next year. Veronica teaches Mannetjie to keep words in the can - another kind of seeds, that will grow, if they are tended carefully.

The five actors are Roslyn Ruff, as Veronica, Namumba Santos as the littlest Mannetjie, Mel Eichler as the student Mannetjie, Colman Domingo, as Alfred, and Lou Ferguson, who represents Oupa in flashbacks. They are directed by Gordon Edelstein on a splendid set designed by Eugene Lee. Costumes, Light, Sound, are all managed beautifully.

I hope that you will not miss this play - so very significant in the world we live in, and so very telling of the truth about the human spirit. It may bring memories of other classics to your mind, as it did to mine, or your grandparents and their messages for growth.

"Coming Home" plays on the Longwharf Main Stage through February 8. Tickets at www.longwharf.org

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports

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