GONE HOME, Wax Lips Theatre Company, at Strawdog Theatre Company. Most memory plays resemble photo albums: their scenes are like snapshots, sharp with the accuracy of total recall or blurry from denial or wishful thinking. In Navy Pier Chicago playwright John Corwin employed multiple perspectives on the same wrenching half-real, half-imagined story to pull the audience in.
At first Corwin’s ambiguously titled Gone Home, his fourth play, seems yet another portrait of a dysfunctional family. But at intermission this elegiac drama breaks in two, the second part putting the first into searing perspective. Corwin focuses on Jack, a 28-year-old New York writer who’s returned to Chicago after a ten-year absence. As his wife looks on hopefully, Jack confronts his resentful mother, who was abandoned by her son and husband. The father appears: always distant, he gave up teaching for travel. Finally Jack’s sister comes out, afraid of the threatening world that the men have embraced all too willingly. In love with rare words, she unwittingly finds an apt one for Corwin’s play: “disquietude.”
Anita Deely’s staging gathers power as Jack’s wife and family convey the neediness behind our memories and the mystery when we surrender them. Chris Hainsworth’s Jack betrays both a writer’s disinterest and a son’s immersion. The other four actors, called as needed from behind a scrim, ably distinguish–to quote the sister again–the “congenital” from the “hereditary.” –Lawrence Bommer