HOME by David Storey (Soulpepper). At the Young Centre (55 Mill). Runs in rep to June 20. $51-$68, stu $32, rush $5-$22. 416-866-8666. See listing. Rating: NNNN
When British playwright Davie Storey talks about going Home, he doesn't simply mean returning to a place of comfortable familiarity.
Instead, he draws five characters whose everyday chit-chat hides secrets beneath the surface. His play poses a gentle mystery: who are these people, and where is their world.
Home has the conciseness of a classical play, set in one location over the course of a blithe spring day. But the dialogue is filled with nuances whose suggestiveness the expert Soulpepper ensemble, under director Albert Schultz, plays with just the right tone.
Jack (Oliver Dennis) and Harry (Michael Hanrahan) are nattily dressed men of the world; they've been through the war, ogle attractive women, wonder what's happening to today's youth and share memories of their respective families. Jack initiates most of the topics they discuss; Harry's response is often an "ah, yes."
Their sometime companions, Kathleen (Brenda Robins) and Marjorie (Maria Vacratsis), are of a lower social class, less elegant and inclined to enjoying sexual innuendoes. They're also more in touch with their feelings, confronting emotions and urges directly. Marjorie's often distrustful of the men, while Kathleen enjoys the suggestiveness of the conversations that go on around her.
The fifth character, Alfred (Andre Sills), isn't quite in their realm; he gets his pleasure from lifting chairs and tables above his head.
As we gather hints about these five, we move beyond the platitudes of their conversation and glimpse the depth of their internal lives. There's humour in their Beckett-like non-sequiturs but also a sense of sadness that affects Harry and Jack more than the women.
The interaction among the actors is finely tuned. Listen to the way, when alone, the two men let their conversations die softly into silence, the talk resuming when one finds a comfortable, safe topic. When the foursome's talk approaches anything of emotional consequence, the men abruptly discuss the weather.
Vacratsis's Marjorie makes a commanding figure, whether chastising the men or trying to keep Kathleen modest by telling her to pull her skirt down, while Robins goes into delightful giggling paroxysms whenever someone says anything with even a slight double entendre. They, rather than the men, are immediately likable.
But the women, comfortable with each other, bring out something in Jack and Harry, even if the men can't talk about their feelings. The unbidden male tears speak to unnamed loss, giving richness to this seemingly ordinary day in the life.