The Public Theatre presented a new work-in-progress last night by the amazing Suzan-Lori Parks as part of their Lab series. The piece, titled Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1 and 8) was the start of a nine-part epic retelling of the Iliad and Odyssey from the perspective of a newly freed slave living in South Texas, 1865. Although we only saw part of the story, I'm assuming that we will see the slave, Homer, journey to freedom, and then return to his love, Penny, as suggested by the archetype. There were hints at other time periods, and multi-media elements, but the core we followed was the immortal tension between the hope of freedom, and the agony of experience.
And it was a beautifully crafted piece, full of intricate language and astounding performances. The subtle musical accompaniment and rhythmic movement (direction by Jo Bonney) counterpointed the text without distraction. And the generous asides and humor (including a wonderfully loyal dog) brought us in to the mix easily and naturally. The audience sat as the lights came up, clearly wanting more, (the ushers had to tell us it was over – please go home now) and I couldn't help feeling like I was a part of a unique moment. I can hardly wait to see this whole thing come to completion, and I'll be proud to say "I was there when..."