Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Time to get your fringe on with Nobody's Home, a marvelous new touring stage production playing one more weekend only at the West End Studio Theatre (WEST). Workshopped in London by Santa Cruz native and now London-based director Ailin Conant and her intrepid two-person cast, this dynamic and affecting drama details the most compelling quest for getting home since Dorothy clicked her heels and E. T. grabbed a phone.

Inspired by the most famous road trip in literature, Homer's The Odyssey, the play makes mythic the interior journey of a young soldier back in the states after three tours of duty in an unnamed Middle-Eastern war zone. Technically, he's already "home," back safe in the house he and his wife are remodeling together, but mentally and emotionally, he's still lost at sea, grappling with fearsome monsters from within his own troubled psyche. He spends most of his time locked in the bathroom, playing video games, struggling with his demons, and trying to figure out how to reconnect with his loyal, but despairing wife, Penny.

The idea of fringe theatre is to make up in imagination what may be lacking in financial resources, and to reinvigorate the craft and the process of making theatre. This innovative production shows you how it's done, a concentrated, one-act, single-set pas-de-trois for two characters and a bathtub that becomes an entire dramatic universe. Kudos go to Otto Muller's masterful sound design, along with a few key props (including the most provocative use of an onstage watermelon since Gallagher).

Will Pinchin holds things together as psychically wounded soldier Grant, onstage every minute, and riveting in his elliptical shifts from tragedy to comedy, goofiness to grief. Dorie Kinnear plays basically everybody else, and what a virtuoso performance it is.

Besides the patiently waiting Penny, and a cloaked Muslim girl, Kinnear appears as a shrink with the Cyclopian headlamp who wields a hand saw to attack the "root" of Grant's psychic problems (a scene both uproarious and horrifying), a hybrid creature with a menacing pig's head, the ghost of a dead comrade with a patter of shtick and an electronically stimulated voice-box, an undulating siren of nameless, yet unattainable desires, and "mighty Poseidon," roiling the turbulent mental waters (a vivid effect achieved with a pair of long, fluttery scarves and simmering offstage percussion).

The production team calls their style "Lecoq-based Physical Theatre," in which the actors are credited with "devising" the story and dialogue in rehearsals. I admit I was skeptical going in at the idea of a play that was not written (or at least guided) by an actual playwright, but however they did it, Nobody's Home could not be more heartfelt, complex, and hypnotic. Catch it this Thursday, Friday or Saturday evening, 8 pm, or Sunday at 3 pm. Visit WEST for details.

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