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[The following review appeared in the Denver Post on Thursday, June 18th.]

While first-hand memories of the cataclysmic devastation of WWII in Europe may be fading with time, the artistic genres spawned by these events are as vibrant and telling today as they were in the immediate aftermath of the hostilities.

Delving into his treasure trove of literary drama from that era, director Ed Baierlein revives David Storey's existential classic, Home, an allegory remarkable for its subtle shadings and understated poignancy. Storey won numerous awards in the '60's and '70's (including the Booker Prize) for his fiction; on stage, his literary sense comes to the fore in crisp, well-measured dialogue.

(Left to right) Ed Baierlein as Jack and Terry Burnsed as Harry
(L to R) Ed Baierlein as Jack
and Terry Burnsed as Harry
Two middle-aged English blokes, Harry (Terry Burnsed) and Jack (Baierlein) meet on a terrace to reminisce and gossip. They cover the usual subjects—weather, current events, military service, and family—and yet, upon closer examination, there is something out-of-kilter and unsettling about the proceedings.

Sally Diamond's playful costumes set off an ensemble rife with razor-sharp idiosyncrasies. Burnsed's Harry is natty, if such a term can be applied to a hodge-podge of styles—each precise, but non sequitors to each other, much as the conversation itself. One moment Harry picks lint off his compatriot, the next he waxes rapturously on his love of dance.

Suzanna Wellens as Marjorie and Ed Baierlein as Jack
Suzanna Wellens as Marjorie
and Ed Baierlein as Jack
A shattered lens, salmon-colored socks, white bucks, and a plaid jacket turn Jack from a once smart dresser into a decayed symbol for the island whose virtues he extols. Mixing his inimitable phrasing with clicks of the tongue, raised eyebrows, and pregnant pauses, Baierlein provides the punctuation for the Pinteresque dialogue.

Suddenly, two women appear in the background, impatiently awaiting Harry and Jack's disengagement from the table and chairs. When they finally get the opportunity to claim the spot and begin to chat, Kathleen (Rita Broderick) complains about her feet and fidgets with her dress, hiking it incrementally up her thighs, while Marjorie (Suzanna Wellens), twirling a punctured umbrella, prattles on with Cockney-flavored commentary.

Ever vigilant at protecting their perch, the wary ladies consider the men's luncheon invitation and the vaguely menacing presence of Alfred (Marc K. Moran), who is determined to remove the table and chairs. Moran deftly paints Alfred as the wildcard, leaving us to wonder what will come next.

Terry Burnsed as Harry and Rita Broderick as Kathleen
(L to R) Ed Baierlein as Jack
and Terry Burnsed as Harry
Baierlein's casting thrives on physical and psychological juxtapositions and contrasting compulsions—Brodericks' domineering Kathleen paired with the conciliatory Harry; the sociable Jack paired with Wellens' catty Marjorie—amplifying role reversals: Kathleen takes Harry's hand to ease his anxiety; Marjorie interrogates Jack with surgical precision. Both men end up in tears.

Questioning the sanity of the world may seem indulgent to those living comfortably in the heart of the empire, but to those who face the daily ravages of the machine, Storey's metaphors ring true, 40 years after Sirs Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud premiered the show in London.

Germinal Stage Denver's Home runs through July 12th. 303-455-7108.

Bob Bows

 

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