By Josh Elstro
Full disclosure: I’ve personally known writer Ben Dudley for many years and have closely followed his comedy work. “Home” is nothing like what he brings to the comedy table, but definitely stays fresh with some of his voice from that genre. It’s a psychological thriller that successfully brings suspense and horror to it’s modest one room “black box” set. His experience in comedy aids his work, building our connection to his characters as the suspense rises.
David Levy and Mark Bowen are endearing and inviting as Kurt and William Cooper, a long-married couple who stay stuck in their home, paranoid of every sight and sound after an invasion that occurred in their past. Leah Strasser as writer Rachel guides the audience through the show’s philosophical offerings with musings about the concept of “home”, which are presented as prerecorded solo readings of passages from her character’s book. Finally, we have Tricia Allen’s occasional comedic relief as neighbor Tasha, which keeps the whole thing tied together.
The mystery of the show is heightened by the simultaneous telling of these two stories – the xenophobic couple and the writer who rents their home when they’re away – in the same physical space. This treats the audience to an added wonder of whether or not something more meta-physical is going on as their stories play out, literally touching at times in the same space (pay close attention to the phone!).
The sound of a beating heart subtly fills the room throughout the show. It sets the mood and reminds us we’re being immersed in a modernized, Poe-like world. With this and other effectively used sounds, Dudley and director Buz Davis create a lot of great moments of suspense and surprise. There are times you might jump as you would during a great horror film. But the show doesn’t rest its laurels on “gotcha” scares. There is much more going on beyond the “whodunnit” aspect that evolves throughout the play. Questions are raised pondering notions of fear versus security and how our balance of these feelings might define the concept of “home”.
Can one’s sense of safety and security be so challenged and assaulted in a place they once called “home” that they’re pushed to a state of trauma from which they can never return? Is it possible someone in this situation can never go home again?
Josh Elstro is an audio production and recording engineer with Cincinnati Public Radio by day and a freelance podcast and music producer by night. Suffice it to say, he REALLY enjoys storytelling, journalism, and performing arts of any kind. He is Lin Manuel Miranda’s best friend… he’s just waiting for Lin to realize it. You can check out his independent podcasts Bellwether (bellwethershow.org) and Still Life With Simpsons (stilllifepod.libsyn.com).