by Tony Kushner
Directed by Lee Mikeska Gardner
Featuring Debra Wise
Central Square Theater
Central Square, Cambridge, MA
April 20 – May 7, 2017
This play is full of words, and self-consciously so. The protagonist, whom we only know as Homebody is a woman who loves books, and arcane ones. She also loves words and does not spare any in communicating endlessly, rapidly and entertainingly with her audience. The current book she’s fascinated with is an old guide to Kabul, Afghanistan, and she weaves the reading of excerpts from the book with her own commentaries and accounts of going to a shop in London, perhaps run by an Afghani, to buy some hats for a party. The whole thing is a whirl, and it’s a wonderful one.
Debra Wise, who realizes the role of Homebody in this wonderful production, gives her incredible energy, depth and pathos. In a talkback after the show, Wise said as much, but it’s clear from her exquisite solo performance that she loves the character.
The amount of sheer verbiage that Wise has to master in order to convey this role is astounding, but she carries it off with nary a blip. Her performance is flawless and heartfelt.
The amazing thing is that Kushner’s play is, despite a lack of any real action or focus, so darn entertaining. Some of that has to do with his love of the words he uses to portray this character, and also to Wise’s incredible ability to embody and convey them.
Action, per se, does not manifest itself explicitly throughout the performance, but there is indeed action and the final discovery of it informs the drama in a compelling way. Nonetheless, the recounting of facts and stories about Kabul, and about visiting the hat shop, provide plenty of feeling along the way.
Wise gives a tour de force performance here, amazing in its richness and persuasiveness.