'Home' review — poignant play finds a new home 40 years after its premiere

Read our review of Home on Broadway, a Tony Award-nominated play by Samm-Art Williams now having its first revival, directed by Tony winner Kenny Leon.

Amelia Merrill
Amelia Merrill

The fact that playwright Samm-Art Williams died just as the revival of his play Home began performances at Roundabout Theatre Company's Todd Haimes Theatre is made all the more poignant by the play's text. Home feels like a confessional, like protagonist Cephus Miles (Tory Kittles) is recounting his life before death as spiritual guides assess his piety and worthiness. Unfortunately for Cephus, he has long expressed the belief that God is on vacation, perhaps lounging in Miami, ignoring him when he calls.

Home is carried by two women forming their own small Greek chorus, embodying specific characters as well as the more ambiguous spirits in Cephus’s head. Brittany Inge alternates between a narrator and Pattie Mae Wells, Cephus’s first and only love, while Stori Ayers uses great physical and vocal versatility to inhabit a vast range of characters. Home is a fast-talking thrill of 90 minutes, bolstered by the breath support of the cast and the steerage of voice coach Kate Wilson.

Scenic designer Arnulfo Maldonado’s cornfields help us feel rightfully at home in Cross Roads, North Carolina, but Home stalls in its middle third as Cephus struggles through city life and is tempted by women and alcohol. (Ayers’s turn as temptress Myrna is a bright spot in this sequence and further shows off her vocal prowess as she croons, “Where there’s no money, there can be no love.”)

This sense of alienation is perhaps intentional, mirroring how Cephus feels, but director Kenny Leon’s production still must bargain for the audience’s attention. Cephus’s return to Cross Roads — to his roots, and to the beautiful simplicity of Maldonado’s earlier set — is a balm not just for the character, but for us all.

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Home summary

Beginning in 1950s Cross Roads, North Carolina, Home follows Cephus Miles from his adolescence on his Gramps’s farm to his time in a Raleigh prison and return to his hometown. At first, Cephus longs to become a farmer like his Gramps and uncle, believing “when you hold a plant, you can feel the heartbeat of God.” But when Gramps and his uncle die and his sweetheart, Pattie Mae, falls in love with a big-shot lawyer, turning her nose down on her community, Cephus questions his calling.

When he is drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, Cephus refuses to serve, believing it would violate his Christian principles: “Love thy neighbor. Thou shalt not kill.” His decision lands him in prison and draws the ire of his Cross Roads community. Preferring his farming life to the “very, very large American city” where he winds up after prison, Cephus must prove to his neighbors that he is worthy of respect, not disdain.

The show premiered on Broadway in 1980, earning a Tony Award nomination for Best Play.

What to expect at Home

Home runs 90 minutes with no intermission, making for a logistically easy evening at the theatre. In Williams's writing about the 20th-century African American experience, Cephus discusses segregation and racism, but he also includes a monologue about a Native American man that is not grounded in respect for the plight of mixed-race Native peoples.

Additionally, Home includes descriptions of the physical abuse of a child and moments of simulated sex, though Leon’s staging is refreshing in its unique take on intimacy.

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What audiences are saying about Home

Home has a rating of 78% on Show-Score, with audiences largely praising the performances, pace, and poetic writing.

  • "See it if you would like a swift and adventurous--if familiar--tale about a man coming to rediscover the home to which he always belonged." - Show-Score user MSS
  • “Amazing and a MUST SEE!” - Instagram user @zaycuatrosmom
  • Show-Score user Theatre Maven called the play a “profound parable.”

Read more audience reviews of Home on Show-Score.

Who should see Home

  • Fans of gospel music and classic Negro spirituals will appreciate Home’s musical moments, especially as Inge and Ayers sing “In the Great Gitt’n Up Morning.”
  • Seeing Home is one way to honor the legacy of Williams, who first began working with Roundabout and the late artistic director Todd Haimes in 2021 as part of the theatre’s Refocus Project.
  • Fans of the CBS reboot of The Equalizer will be happy to see leading man Tory Kittles, who plays Marcus on the TV series, as Cephus.

Learn more about Home on Broadway

Though the ending of Williams’s play leans into a happiness that feels all too trite, the cliché also leaves the door open for interpreting Cephus's journey as one of a prodigal son.

Learn more and get Home tickets on New York Theatre Guide. Home is at the Todd Haimes Theatre through July 21.

Photo credit: Home on Broadway. (Photos by Joan Marcus)

Originally published on

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