The best one-word description of “Home, Sweet, _____” is right there in the title.
But this 40-minute clowning piece, created by Accademia dell’Arte-trained performer Collette Campbell, is more than just sweet. It is funny and touching, and joyful in its simplicity.
…she holds the audience’s interest with the broad sincerity of her facial reactions.
Campbell — in aviator goggles, pigtails, and puppy-dog makeup — zooms onstage to the accompaniment of Sean Skahill, sitting in the corner with a drawn-on Django Reinhardt mustache, playing the strings. In a silent back-and-forth, Campbell gets Skahill to switch to a song that best fits her mood, testing out each new style with a bit of dancing. (In addition to playing on stage, Skahill also composed the score that runs throughout the performance.)
Campbell’s character then realizes she needs a house, and gets to work on a design that is too ambitious for her capacities. No matter — she has optimism and determination. But frustration and rage soon set in, followed by regret. A sudden storm leads her to reconsider just what is meant by a “home” and how to best go about discovering — or rediscovering — one.
Campbell is a very skilled physical performer, and while there is little variation to the action of the piece, she holds the audience’s interest with the broad sincerity of her facial reactions. When things do threaten to get a bit worn out, Campbell and Skahill have well-timed comic interactions to set up the next part of the brief story.
Clowning — especially at a Fringe Festival — can be hard to balance. A show that is right for young children may be too elementary for adults; a show aimed at the elders may be too esoteric for the tiny ones. Campbell and Skahill bridge that potential peril admirably.
The Saint Augustine’s Episcopal Church Crocodile space suits Campbell both well and poorly. The stark white back wall is put to good use in a brief shadow-finding scene; the small dimensions of the playing space let Campbell — who does very strong space-work — to use the full area without losing sight of the focus.
But much of “Home, Sweet, _____” — indeed, the most interesting and subtle bits — take place with Campbell seated on the floor, and the sight lines are not great. Try to arrive early and get a seat up front.
Running Time: 40 minutes.
Advisory: Recommended for all ages.
“Home, Sweet, _____” at Saint Augustine’s Episcopal Church Crocodile, 555 Water Street SW in Washington, will run through July 27. For tickets and more information, click here.