C.J. Lindsey and Austin Highsmith Garces in Home Front. Photo by Tim Sullens.
The artist’s challenge is to do something that hasn’t been done before. It can be revolutionary and shocking or evolutionary, presenting the familiar in a new way. In rare cases, it is both: the artist’s unique perspective collides with preconceived notions, resulting in a new way of seeing a well-trod subject.
So it is with Home Front, now playing at Burbank’s Victory Theatre. Through beautifully layered characters, an accurate historical framework, and abiding honesty, playwright Warren Leight inspires empathy and insight. Victory co-artistic director Maria Gobetti helms this powerful theater experience.
Home Front takes what might seem to be a predictable storyline, about a mid-century American interracial couple who meet at a V-J Day dance, and tells a story that feels both evolutionary and revolutionary.
The scenario might spark audience expectations about prejudice and the rough road ahead for them. But don’t come to Home Front expecting to see the same old, same old. The couple and their upstairs neighbor don’t follow predictable paths. Their careful characterizations and exquisite acting by all three make this show something special.
Lt. James Aurelius Walker (C.J. Lindsey), a medic, is one of the “Golden Thirteen,” Black soldiers during World War II who passed a special test and became commissioned officers. (Almost 100,000 Black soldiers served in the war.) He meets young war widow Annie Overton (Austin Highsmith Garces) celebrating the end of the war. The two fall instantly in love.
They could perhaps be forgiven for thinking the world had changed and their relationship could be accepted. During the war, both attained new freedoms and hadn’t imagined a return to the old ways. They could be forgiven for thinking that the wartime changes in perception of Blacks and women meant they would now be accepted as full citizens. As James puts it, “They won’t forget what we did.” Sadly, open doors slammed shut quickly and firmly.
James and Annie’s neighbor Edward Glimmer (Jonathan Slavin) is a gay Army veteran who empathizes with Annie and helps her navigate her emotional and financial difficulties. The role is complex, ranging from comic relief to key player in the young family.
The set, designed by Evan Bartoletti, perfectly showcases the complexity of the characters and their story and adds a cinematic feel. A scrim is used to show scenes in locations other than the basement apartment where James and Annie set up their home. It’s also a screen for projections designed by Jermaine Alexander.
Don’t miss this important and revealing show.
Home Front is playing at Victory Theatre through Feb. 19 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 4:00pm. Tickets are $28-$40 and are available here. The theater is located at 3326 W. Victory Blvd. in Burbank.
About Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Neo Ensemble Theatre in Hollywood.
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