Am I going crazy? It’s a pretty common question, given how mysterious, and how fragile, our shared definition of sanity proves to be. The twentieth century has been the age of psychosis – or, at least, the fear of it.
But if you fear that you’re losing it, you’re probably not. The truly unstable don’t typically pause to reflect on such things. Throughout the domestic mania of home free, the question never arises. Let that serve as clue number one.
Enter Lawrence, rumpled, in pajama pants and a tossed-on button down shirt, scrambling excitedly around a shuttered bedroom as he teaches astronomy to two pupils (Edna and Claypone, silent and forever unseen). Jacob Yeh plays Lawrence with childish vivacity, like a sleep away camper gone to seed, and this clean, capable production of Lanford Wilson’s modest one-act is truly a showcase for Yeh’s talents.
Lawrence’s ranting lecture on the Pleiades stops abruptly when Joanna (Pamela Leahigh) trudges in from the grocery store, weary and with child. The two tease each other, banter, and ride a roller coaster through verbal abuse to tenderness and back again. It becomes clear that both fear the world outside their apartment door – especially Lawrence, who is ramped up into fits of squirrelly terror at the thought of Joanna speaking to a man on the subway.
Most shows with living room dialogue glide back and forth like a tennis match, but the loopy talk in home free plays like Calvinball, with virtually no rules or governing principles. Joanna and Lawrence ping-pong from lust to fury to giggles to tears with unsettling ease. That their true relationship remains unclear through the end (he calls her his sister, his mother, and his wife in turn) shows just how out of control this game of house has become – Joanna and Lawrence are lost in a dark forest of role-play, the trail of logic and motive long forgotten.
Leahigh and Yeh commune nicely with each other, and the actors’ commitment to such amplified emotions manages to ring true. As the worn-down Joanna, Leahigh gives a solid, mild performance, but Yeh paints with a bigger brush, and the results are wonderfully splashy and dynamic without being quoted or caricatured.
Much tension rises around the door to the outside world, which pulses with menace and foreboding. Just when it seems home free will burst like a swirling soap bubble, a real crisis strikes, and no amount of yelling for the absent Edna and Claypone will bring an answer. A dark, disturbing truth starts to emerge about Joanna and Lawrence’s true relationship, although Wilson’s smart script resists the urge to connect too many dots.
Leahigh and Yeh first stood home free up on its feet in an honors class at the Theatre Lab in December, and they’ve made good on their desire to keep the piece running this summer. Simple but strong design choices (a tangled mattress on the floor, a kiddie chalkboard on a 3-foot easel) effectively set the tone, and the two actors have a strong working relationship that adds unspoken layers to the ambiguous (but increasingly creepy) plotline.
Going crazy’s not so hard. Playing it well takes some clarity and smarts. Leahigh and Yeh are on a roll with this piece, and we can only hope that the doors keep opening.
Written by Lanford Wilson
Directed and performed by Pamela Leahigh and Jacob Yeh
Reviewed by Hunter Styles