As the Gospel stage play The Home opens, it is clear that the Thompson family must soon face a challenge shared by 43.5 million Americans—caring for a family member over 50. Nubia Filmworks’ Director Shuaib Mitchell (also an award-winning filmmaker) and playwright Dr. John L. McCoy (Mitchell’s pastor) present a thought-provoking play featuring stand-out scenes, comic punches, and the marvelous singing of Tony Award-Winner Melba Moore.
The eldest member of the Thompson family, Mama Lizzie, is at the center of The Home. Played with grace and style by Judy Leak, Mama Lizzie experiences a litany of mishaps caused by her Alzheimer’s including cooking for a deceased husband and putting salt in a sugar dish. At her core, Mama Lizzie wants to make her own decisions before her disease claims her mind. Leak has a good turn singing Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Going to Come.”
Sowande Tichawonna marvelously plays Mama Lizzie’s son Charlie, who is so blinded by guilt, that he has trouble even discussing the possibility of placing his mother in a nursing home. Tichawonna exceeds in scenes with Leak and Wanda Moody, who plays his wife Gloria.
Fred Strother (from HBO’s The Wire) provides a touch of comedy to The Home as Greenwood Senior Care facility resident Banks, a wheel-chair-bound curmudgeon who verbally spars with the lady residents in particular, and especially with Moore’s character Martha. Banks at one point laments: “I ain’t got no friends. I ain’t got no family. I ain’t got no toenails.”
Moore unleashes her five-octave range on “Lean on Jesus,” bringing many of the audience members to their feet as she soars atop the highest of the high notes. She is joined on “Lean on Jesus” by singer/songwriter Steve Darby, who also plays Greenwood resident Sam, a mute widower.
The fantastic Eli-El and the wonderful Annette James play the other two of Mama Lizzie’s kids, Michael and Shirley respectively. Michael and Shirley are always too busy to visit their mother, making for awkward scenes with them and the rest of the Thompson clan.
Set Designer Robert Hamilton creates a laid-back looking living room and functional looking kitchen for the Thompson’s. A single, upstage wall represents the Greenwood Senior Care facility.
Comedian Shawn Mason provided a pre-show set to warm up the audience, and she also plays a nurse at the senior facility. Kendall Turner plays Charlie’s daughter Angie. Other cast include Charles Butler, Jr., as Pastor; Maria Pugh as Mother Lucy; Barbara Fisher as Mrs. Raye; Radio One Host Lyndia Grant as Lou Ann; PRAISE 104.1 On-Air Personality Cheryl Jackson; and Nana Malaya Rucker as Mrs. Sattlewhite.
There were a few minor problems such as a long wait before the scene in which Charlie consults with Mrs. Sattlewhite, a counselor. Due to a technical glitch, most likely, some of the actors were hard to hear at times.
Mitchell and Assistant Director/Co-Producer Ivy Hawkins ensured that the cast picked up their cues with alacrity. At one point, when Mama Lizzie was lost, Mitchell had his actors use the audience’s space, and ask a few audience members, to help find her.
The Home is emotionally moving entertainment filled with powerful scenes, timely humor, and magical singing.
Note: The Home will tour in select cities throughout the nation in 2020. Visit Nubia Filmworks to find out more.
Running Time: Approximately two hours, including a 15-minute intermission.
The Home by Nubia Filmworks played for one performance only on November 16, 2019, at the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts, 15200 Annapolis Road/Route 450 in Bowie, MD. For future events at Bowie Center for the Performing Arts, visit their website.