‘Home’ review: domestic magic and the fleeting American dream

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"Home" Photo credit: Sea Sloat.

The show "Home" begins with a magic trick.

When you walk into the theater, you see an empty stage. As the show begins, an unassuming man, played by the show’s creator Geoff Sobelle, walks from the audience to the stage to survey things. After placing a couple of halogen work-lights, he fumbles to stretch plastic over some wood. It kind of looks like a bare stud wall that a construction worker might staple Tyvek to. After a couple awkward staples, he stands the stud wall up. He moves it around the bare stage and suddenly, magically, there's a simple bedroom. The man, exhausted from his labors, gets into bed and pulls the sheet over his head. Poof, when the sheets move, we see a young boy.

It goes on like this, with one magical transformation leading to another until a giant piece of plastic flies down onto the nearly bare stage. After a little construction hocus pocus, the plastic falls to reveal a two story stud house in construction, they type you probably see sprouting up in backyards across LA.

It's a stunning piece of stage magic. Empty stage to two story set that might become a home.

But it's not really more amazing than the magic almost everyone does in their own lives. Think about the empty spaces that you have filled since you were a child. Think about the unfurnished four walls that slowly, through your own personal enchantment, became a home. Think about how an anonymous space transformed into a place where maybe you fell in love — or fell out of love — where children were born or maybe parents died. Where birthdays transformed into holidays and celebrations. A place that felt safe and magical and then — maybe before you were ready — you had to leave.

That's what Geoff Sobelle's brilliant piece "Home" is really about: that domestic magic, the stuff of the fleeting American dream — making a house into your own home.

What begins as a magic trick, turns into a almost a dance piece as three or four different families inhabit the same home at different times. That bare-stud two-story house evolves to have an upstairs shower complete with curtain and at one point there's a wonderful parade of four people, worthy of Moliere farce, rotating in and out of shower half naked — as if the time of everyone who ever lived in this particular house could be compressed into a single morning dance. As one person steps in, another steps out. The towel discarded by one is grabbed by another. After all, every space that was ours will be, someday, someone else's.

With this magical stage house built and inhabited, it's time for a house party — and the guests are the audience. At first, about 30 people are welcomed onstage but by the party's height there's a brass band, a Santa Clause, a grim reaper, and a conga line. It's joyous.

The most emotional moment of the show for me was when two audience members were pulled from the party and mic'd to talk about their own childhood homes. It sounds so simple, but think, for a moment, about the house you grew up in.

And then, in a little under two hours, it's all gone. We lose this magical house that we saw built and grew attached to. Itss covered in plastic perhaps to be torn down for some new home. And then just as quickly, the show “Home” itself is over, really over, because it’s off to play in another theater in another city.

But it leaves us with a reminder to cherish the magic of our own homes and just maybe with a little more empathy for those that may have lost theirs.

"Home" played at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica this past weekend.