BTG's first production, Home, matches substance with style
By Samm-Art Williams.
May 3, 4, and 11 at 8:00 p.m.; May 5 at 3:00 p.m.
Room 1-390.By Teresa Esser
Home, the first production by MIT's new Black Theatre Guild, provides a genuinely entertaining look at the life of a North Carolina man, Cephus Miles (Kearne Pendergast '98), the struggles of growing up, and the joys of coming home.
Told through a delightful combination of song, dance, and lyric poetry, the play's strengths are many and varied. The actors deliver their lines in a smooth and flowing succession of rapid-fire observations that alternately amuse and provoke the audience. The actors shine in their roles. It is good to see the extreme confidence with which the characters approach the play's erotic scenes. The voice of Kenya Taylor '97 rises and falls like a melody; the robust solos of Cheryl D. Oates G are worth the price of admission on their own.
The best part of the play, however, has got to be the script. The play is a collage of words, a chorus of prose explanations. "Cephus Miles, dead in the grave. Cephus Miles, can't be saved." Sad, displaced faces. The Cornerstone Baptist Church. A ticket back to the land. Is Cephus a Christian or a Voodoo Man? Each soliloquy is a poem in itself. Molasses bread. Bootleg whiskey. Strong black coffee. Oates' character convincing Cephus to leave the farm and go work in the city. "The subway rolls. Take it to the city. Get a factory job." Oates' voice makes the poetry come alive. "Steak, salad and champagne instead of red-eye gravy and black-eyed peas."
Born in the small town of Crossroads and raised primarily by his grandfather, Cephus spent his young life getting in and out of trouble. He played craps on the cement vaults in the graveyard on Sunday morning and was whipped for it with a switch from the backyard. He spent time courting Pattie Mae (April M. Griffin '98), but she went off to college in Virginia. So he sat in his rocking chair while his peers went off to fight in Vietnam; he served four years in prison for refusing to go with them. He lost the farm, left home.
There are plays, and then there are plays. And every so often a play comes along that is head and shoulders above the rest. This play is Home, and it's only around for one more weekend. Student-run, student-produced, and student-acted, the Black Theatre Guild has definitely carved out its own niche in the mad puzzle of the MIT entertainment scene. Home is a gem. Watch it. Watch it for the words.