At first glance, the title of Homebound’s final episode, “Reopening,” seems misleading. As we all know, America’s state by state reopenings have been a set of fits and starts leading to re-closings in multiple states. The DMV will face a reckoning in time, too, but neither Maboud (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) nor Craig (Craig Wallace) will be alone when it happens.
The genuine “reopening” in this episode is the reset of their lives with renewed purpose, a revamped friendship and true hope that the revolutions, brought on by both BLM and the pandemic, are real.
“In the midst of crisis, there is hope,” Craig says—half suited-up in a gorgeous royal blue dress shirt and tie—while filming a promotional video for his new CFS intern program. “In the midst of pain, there is peace. And in the darkest night, someone is singing your name.” Sign me up!
And if you don’t want to work with Craig, then partner with Maboud, who’s decided to strike out on his own and pitch his little start-up as a partner to that tech firm in Minneapolis. “I’ve got the multi-million dollar idea that’s gonna catapult us out of the corona slump,” he says loosening his tie and flinging it aside. “Tomorrow is the 4th of July. The day we celebrate freedom. Freedom from ideas that choke us and hold us back.” Sign me up, again!
With “Reopening,” Jennings does a smile-inducing job of tying up loose ends, and just generally giving the whole series a sense of continuity and completion.
Homebound ends by celebrating what can be possible when people with resolve use it to create positive change. Even if it is incremental and only within their orbits. Maboud, an Iranian immigrant, becoming a small business entrepreneur in America during the pandemic and BLM movement says something powerful. Craig, a Black man who works for a large corporation lacking diversity and people of color in leadership positions, establishing an intern program during the pandemic and BLM movement, says something powerful.
These plot points may seem innocuous in this 12-minute episode, but they aren’t. The opening words writer Caleen Sinnette Jennings has penned for Craig and Maboud to sell their ideas speak truth to power, just like protesters on the frontlines. Showcasing the personal evolutions of people, real and imagined, through art is important to the racial justice revolution in America.
Jennings writes clever, witty dialogue that fits with the wonderful banter we’ve come to love from Craig and Maboud. Maboud, euphoric over his future even as his new living arrangements fall apart, turns to Craig for help, and Craig saves the day like the Homebound Dad he is. Theirs is the relationship we’ve really been rooting for all along. How it ends is a genuine sweet surprise.
Overall, Homebound has been a journey of ups and downs, much like the last few months. Back in April, it seemed that the world had stopped; that we would never leave our houses again; that fresh digital theatre content would be limited to Zoom. In my review of episode one (“Connect”), I noted that Homebound’s challenge would be to surprise the viewers and “make us feel like we’ve not left our lives for 11 minutes to just go live our lives for 11 minutes.”
The best episodes have held surprises while also connecting tiny threads from other episodes, creating common ties over more than just death and sadness, which could have made the whole series a joyless slog. Instead, Homebound’s writers gave us Prince, purple, and potatoes to balance Maboud’s and Craig’s struggles. The series evolved with advanced production values (thank the stars), fancier camera work, dance and poetry, and some purely fun episodes like (“The Date”). Each kept Homebound fresh week-to-week and breathed life and love into the middle of despair. Even the deeper, more serious episodes offered buoyancy and great intelligence (“We Wear the Mask”, “Sometimes it Snows in April”, and “Refuge”).
The show’s creators, who were focusing the series on life during the pandemic, received the biggest surprise when the BLM protests for racial justice broke out in May. It forced Homebound’s creative team to quickly adjust to the realities of the moment in terms of planned story, writing, and production. They handled it all swiftly, gracefully, beautifully. As a viewer, it looked seamless and effortless.
The background of the series became both the pandemic and the BLM protests; the pandemic will surely impact our lives for longer than America wants. And, let’s hope the BLM movement will impact our lives for as long as America needs it to.
Homebound is, in many ways, a quirky series with a lot of joy in it and that, for me, was the best surprise. That it managed to strike that balance while covering polarizing, sensitive, troubling, scary, and sad topics is a testament, first, to the playwrights: Alexandra Petri, Farah Lawal harris, Liz Maesti, Karen Zacarias, Psalmayene 24, Tim. J. Lord, Dani Stoller, Agyeiwaa Asante, Dane Figueroa Edidi, and Caleen Sinette Jennings.
To their creative partners: Editor: Joshua Land, Music: The Curious Music Company, Sound and Audio: Matthew Nielson, Lighting: Harold Burgess, Costumes: Ivania Stack, and Baltimore’s center for post production magic, Digital Cave.
Deserving a huge bow are the cast: lead actors Ebrahimzadeh and Wallace, supported by Alina Collins Maldonaldo, Yao Dogbe, Helen Hedman, Maya Jackson, Chinna Palmer, Lynette Rathnam and Jamie Smithson.
Final accolades to directors Ryan Rilette and Nicole A. Watson, who carried the vision from episode one to ten and had the foresight, patience, and courage to allow the series to grow and breathe and be what it needed to be in real time.
Bravo to these awesome artists.
Round House Theatre’s Homebound is an original 10 part web series that explores life under Stay-at-Home orders in the Nation’s Capital. “Refuge” was written by Caleen Sinnette Jennings. Directed by Ryan Rilette. Featuring Round House Theatre Resident Artists Maboud Ebrahimzadeh and Craig Wallace. Produced by Ryan Rilette and Ed Zakreski. Post Production Courtesy of Digital Cave. Edited by Joshua Land. Original Music Courtesy of The Curious Music Company. Sound Design & Audio Post Production by Matthew Nielson. Lighting Design by Harold Burgess. Costume Design by Ivania Stack. Reviewed by Kelly KcCorkendale.
View “Reopening” on YouTube.
View the entire series here or on YouTube.
The 10 episode Homebound series is produced as a benefit for Round House Theatre’s Resilience Fund.
Bernard Andrews says
What a wonderful series this turned out to be. As a former film industry worker, I’ll say this show deserves a lot of credit for doing something this remarkable in times like these. The whole creative team really came together after a few episodes. Shout out to the fellow Director of Photography (Ebrahimzadeh) who managed to create some wonderful visuals throughout the series. Quite impressed and intrigued by the ingenuity it must have taken to get those shots! And the actors, who I am assuming played camera operators on the day! That couldn’t have been easy. Bravo to all involved!
Theatre Fan, and Film Lover