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Wilma Theater’s “Coming Home” tugs on the heart

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Elijah Felder as Mannetjie at age 5and Patrice Johnson as Veronica Jonkers in Coming HomeDirector Blanka Zizka returns to favorite playwright Athol Fugard in this emotion packed play about life, hope, despair and reality.

A moving tale of a young South African woman’s never-ending hope for a better future. As a teenager, Veronica left her cherished grandfather's farm with aspirations of becoming a cabaret singer in Cape Town. Years later, she returns to her hometown with broken dreams, a painful secret, and the unflinching hope of building a new life for her young son.

“Fugard’s characters seemed so alive and full of potential, but the ugliness of the world they inhabited crawled into their souls and defeated them," says Zizka.

Coming Home is Fugard’s latest play and a sequel to his mid-90s play Valley Song, an optimistic, hopeful play about South Africa’s future. The character of Veronica played by Patrice Johnson (Broadway’s The Crucible), brings an immense amount enthusiasm as she revisits her life through vivid stories told to her young son, Mannetjie (Elijah Felder age 5 and Antonio J. Dandridge age 9).

Lou Ferguson plays her grandfather, Oupa, whose life is as deeply rooted in his farm as the old walnut tree in the “akkers” (fields). Ferguson is commanding, yet gentle as his “ghost” revisits to express his love of family and his precious harvest.

Rounding out the casting is the lovable, dim-witted family friend Alfred Witbooi played by Nyambi Nyambi, who cannot decide if he has more affection for Veronica or the new red bicycle he's been seeking.

Antonio J. Dandridge as Mannetjie at age 9 and Nyambi Nyambi as Alfred Witbooi in Coming Home

As Veronica pleads for forgiveness to her sleeping young son, her secret slowly reveals itself. Realizing her future and that of Mannetjie’s, she turns to Alfred who now faces more challenges than the frost or the droughts that influence their dearly loved crops. 

Nyambi develops his character so well that we find ourselves quietly cheering him on as we watch his foolishness melt away and his compassion forge ahead.

All the while, Veronica suffers the anguish and the realization that “dreams don’t do well in this Valley. Pumpkins yes, but not dreams…”

Set designs are simple, yet effective with subtle impressive lighting to set the mood for this somber, heartfelt story.

Coming Home plays at the Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St. Phila. Pa from October 14- November 15. For tickets and information: call 215.546.7824 or online www.wilmatheater.org.  

 

Production Photo Credits Courtesy of Wilma Theater