Smile Politely

What makes a house a Home?

Year after year we celebrate Pygmalion, and every year we are amazed at the talent presented before us. This year, a very talented Geoff Sobelle introduced us to Home, a lively, eccentric, and innocently honest portrayal of what makes a house, a home.

From the moment the performance begins, the audience is immediately aware that this will not be an ordinary show. There is no dramatic unveiling of a set from behind a curtain, no announcement that something is about to start. An actor simply makes his way to the stage, as if he just emerged from the audience.

A construction zone appears, as the actor shuffles around a wooden frame, foreshadowing that a significant portion of the performance will be centered around the premise of what makes a home. Is it simply the frame from which it is built? Or is it the people, the routines, the daily lives of those living inside this frame.

Several lives are intertwined within this home. Sobelle uses a number of characters going about their daily lives, waking up in the morning, taking a shower, brushing their teeth, drinking their coffee; one after the other. These characters represent different stages of life, from childhood to adulthood, and add another layer to the notion of home. The home itself has clearly had various residents who have led seemingly similar lives, yet in very different ways. How often is it that we do most of these tasks ourselves? Undoubtedly daily, and more than once. Yet, seeing this portrayal on stage, really gives the audience a glimpse into everything that a home holds inside its walls. Perhaps ghostlike is an accurate description of the reel that unfolds before the audience as actors go about their lives in the span of five minutes.

Significant events in the lives of its tenants: families doing ordinary things like bringing home a pet, throwing a party, grieving a loss, celebrating a marriage are all depicted to the audience, as if to highlight how many memories a home can hold inside. Amidst the scurry of these events, a troubadour appears playing various instruments, singing songs that add to the follies one might experience as a tenant of a home. This addition helps highlight certain events for the audience.

The entire performance has little to no dialogue in it, which is another part of what makes this a unique experience. The emotions of the actors and tone of each scene, when paired with the songs of the mysterious singer, leave the audience with a clear understanding of the moment.

Speaking of the audience, Sobelle very much intended for the audience to be a part of the performance. Several audience members are invited up on the stage to participate in the show. Before we know it, there is an entire party unfolding before us. Person after person is whisked onto the stage and assigned a task. Some bring over wine, others presents. Suddenly, there is a group of recent graduates to be celebrated, and a wedding that has just taken place, and a baby that was born. The audience is part of this portrayal, making the entertainment factor of the show top notch.

If one is searching for a concrete message within the performance, well, they might be searching for a while. Sobelle is not known to create an ordinary explanation for his artistic eye. According to his bio, he is a “renegade absurdist outfit devoted to creating original actor-driven performance works.” As a member of the cast himself, his attention to detail made the show a true multilayer experience.

With Home he managed to execute just that: a wonderfully original piece which is anchored by the actors who perform their roles perfectly, with almost no dialogue to aid them. As the audience, we are left to draw our own conclusions about the scenes unfolding before us, which is both interesting and challenging at once. Because the actors have a more challenging and uncommon task, their skills and attention to detail in Home are astounding.

There you have it, another outstanding and intricately written performance leaves the audiences at Pygmalion smiling, reflecting, and thinking back to their own lives and experiences. Home was a truly authentic experience and a wonderful break from personal reality.

Photos provided by Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

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