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Home/Sick – JACK, Brooklyn, NY

Writer/Creator: The Assembly (Stephen Aubrey, Edward Bauer, Ben Beckley, Nick Benacerraf, Kate Benson, Marianne Broome, Jess Chayes, Anna Abhau Elliott, Luke Harlan, Emily Louise Perkins)

Director: Jess Chayes

Reviewer: Jamie Rosler

Protests and left-wing radicalism. Sexual politics and patriarchal male behavior. Illegal war and racial tension. Home/Sick is ostensibly a story about the Weather Underground of the 1960s, but clearly has deep relevance to the current state of our nation and world.

The Assembly presents a difficult tale with ease, engaging and personally involving the audience from the moment they enter the space and take their seats. The space in question, designed by Nick Benacerraf (Environment Design) and Miriam Nilofa Crowe (Lighting Design), is transformed into meeting rooms, hideouts, and protest locations, with little more than lighting and blocking changes. Walls are painted and graffitied with progressive messages and anti-establishment ideals, creating a constant presence of the outside world as seen through the eyes of six characters, empathetically and passionately portrayed by an agile ensemble of white performers.

Their whiteness is important to their place in the movement, as is the age and gender of each character, in relation to each other and the movement at large. If violent radicalism is more likely to get you killed if you’re black, then it is up to white progressives to employ violence to bring down the system (or so goes the theory behind the Weather Underground’s actions). But is violence ever the answer? When is it no longer considered self-defense? If a white man is fighting for his black brothers, but simultaneously taking advantage of his position as a powerful male within the revolution, does his hypocrisy outweigh his decency? Can you ever beat the system from within it?

Raising these and other complicated questions, Home/Sick can be heavy, but importantly never presents an unbearable load. It is not without humor, irony, and self-awareness, not to mention a hopeful ending, designed anew at each performance with the help of audience contributions made before the opening lights dim. In a complicated political era, such that we may never have expected to see again, this is the kind of theatre it is refreshing to see. Important but neither didactic nor polemic, it is first and foremost a well-made piece of art that allows every viewer to have their own experience of and reaction to a valuable presentation of our flaws, as people and as a society.

Runs until 25 March 2017

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