Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Come Home": ☼ ☼ 1/2 (baub)

With Jovelyn Richards it's all about sound and movement -- her hands and feet are bare, her legs and arms swirl in layers of draping fabrics. She tells her story in words, in moans, in shouts and in stomps, and her new one-woman show, 'Come Home,' playing through March 8 at the Marsh, grabs you the second she takes the stage. It doesn't end as strongly as it begins, though, so the one-act performance seems to stretch on longer than it might.

Richards tells the story of 26 black soldiers from Arkansas who enlisted in the army during World War II, motivated by two lynchings in their home town. When half of the men return alive after the war, they have changed forever, as is illustrated by the ruined relationship between the principal character, Donna Rae, and her soldier husband. At the outset of the play these two are described in bawdy exuberance, and we long to share more of their lives later on. But making 'Come Home' into a feel-good love story is not what Jovelyn Richards has in mind. As life in Arkansas deteriorates, and the writer becomes more metaphysical, the show's energy diminishes as well. Richards is such a riveting performer that we would be more enthusiastic if her ending were equally riveting.

RATINGS ☼ ☼ 1/2 (baub)

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Coming Home" two and a half stars, one for the first half of the story, one for Richards herself and another half for that sensual bout in the water when Jovelyn Richards gives new meaning to the word "eyelashes." We could have used more scenes like this one.

Perhaps in a larger theater space, the synthesizer player and two violinists could be tucked behind a screen so every time they played their instruments our attention weren't deflected away from the performer. A synthesizer? In a story about rural Arkansas in the forties? Anything that takes your eyes from Jovelyn Richards rates a Bauble of Despair.

"Come Home"
The Marsh
1062 Valencia Street, San Francisco
Thu-Sat through March 8, $15-$35

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