Drama Talk & Drinks: Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts I, II, & III) – “storytelling you have to work for”

After five years of Drama Talk & Drinks, we realized we had never reviewed a show at one of the premiere theaters in SF, A.C.T. It seemed like a good time to start, particularly with opening of Father Comes Home From the Wars, a play new play by Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient Suzan-Lori Parks. So off we went to A.C.T for a night of drama talk and drinks.

Photo by Joan Marcus. A chorus of enslaved people—Second (Rotimi Agbabiaka), Third (Safiya Fredericks), Leader (Chivas Michael), Homer (Julian Elijah Martinez) and The Oldest Old Man (Steven Anthony Jones), Hero’s surrogate father—place bets over whether Hero will accompany The Colonel to the Civil War in Suzan-Lori Parks’s Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), performing at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater April 25–May 20, 2018.

Photo by Joan Marcus. A chorus of enslaved people—Second (Rotimi Agbabiaka), Third (Safiya Fredericks), Leader (Chivas Michael), Homer (Julian Elijah Martinez) and The Oldest Old Man (Steven Anthony Jones).

Brittany: I loved the first two acts. The staging was beautiful and the Greek chorus was cool. The third act, after the intermission, lost some momentum for me. I was weirded out by the talking dog. I think they were going for an Odysseus thing, but it jumped the shark for me. Still very much worth seeing, but be prepared for a bit of a let down at the end.

Katie: There were definitely some cool moments, but I didn’t love the preachy, greek tragedy, lots of monologues format. I was interested in the story and cared about the characters, but it was a 3 hour show…I guess I’m a product of a generation of really short attentions span, but it felt long. I also agree the third act was not as strong as the first two. At first it wasn’t even clear that the Greek chorus was playing different characters, and then when the dog-human ran out it totally took me out of it.

B: I didn’t mind all the monologues because they were performed by really strong actors, but you’re right, it was a long first act.

K: Agreed. The actors were incredible. The set was cool and artistic too.

B: I liked how they used the lighting and the shadows.

K: I appreciate that the play explored some pretty provocative topics too.

B: Definitely some very interesting subject matter. I think that’s why I was okay with the length of the play. Watching the characters explore the legacy of slavery in the United States and the struggle for black Americans to be valued when the dominant white culture only sees value in a black person if they can be owned was some powerful stuff. I think it was a valuable play in that way. I just really wish they didn’t have that dog character.

K: This is for people who love meaningful theater and storytelling you have to work for, but it’s totally worth it. I enjoyed myself.

The Verdict: It’s a long and heavy show, but very well acted, well staged, and well worth seeing.

The Drama Talk: Father Comes Home From the Wars is thought provoking. It’s the kind of a play you’re engaged in while it’s happening, and then when you think about it after the fact you start to realize all the clever things you missed. This is undoubtedly in part due to the extremely good actors who were able to keep the audience with them in the moment. The dramatic yet sparse set and highly contrasted lighting design provided just enough of a canvass to give the scenes shape, while still allowing one’s imagination to fill in the detail. Yes, it’s long, but it’s also smart, and totally worth checking out.

The Drinks: It was late by the time we got out of this 3 hour show, so we wanted somewhere chill where we could discuss what we just saw AND have cocktail and a snack. Luckily Bartlett Hall was open and had all of the above.

Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts I, II, & III) plays through May 20th at the ACT’s Geary Theater. Tickets range from $13.50-$115 and can be purchased on their website.

 

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