Robert Koon’s “Homecoming 1972” tells the story of a Vietnam Vet living in great pain—psychic and physical—stuck in the horrors of war.
He is not alone in being “stuck”. All the characters in this play are in one way or another “stuck” in places where they do not want to be or have become resigned to stay in. The play proceeds less like a climactic drama and more like the peeling of an onion, making this commonality of being “stuck” bare.
To those of us who remember 1972 or the overwhelming emotions of a similarly named movie “Coming Home” starring Jon Voight and Jane Fonda, we need little set up to remember the drama of the times or to have eerie reminders of how our country has often seemed “stuck” in perpetual wars since that time.
But today’s audience didn’t necessarily live during those turbulent years, and Homecoming 1972 does an efficient job of setting up the key touchstones of America at that time. The stage is decorated with photographs of the war, protests against it, and news clips of the days. We are reminded that the Veterans came back and were spit upon, even those who were drafted. Although Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome was not as much a household word, we are reminded that it was the unofficial uniform of many veterans of that war too.
Matt Hozfeind playing the Vietnam Vet Frank does an outstanding job of portraying rage moving inwards and outwards as he tries to navigate life in a world where he can no longer feel normal. There is not a moment when he is on stage when we do not feel his insufferable and incurable back pain. Although he does nothing to make himself lovable to the audience or those around him, our sympathies are hooked right from the start. Koons’ writing and Kimberly Senior’s direction certainly helps the audience along in this regard.
Molly Glynn playing Darla, the iconic diner waitress who could be starring in Homecoming 1972 or just as easily become part of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks”, projects a warmth that easily explains why she is the one all in town confide in easily.
We also meet a couple, Maria (Greta Honold) and Joe (Brett Schneider), brother of the returned Vet Frank, who are at odds with each other in how to handle Frank’s behavior or even where to be in the world.
“The Kid”, Julian Hester, stands in for all the privileged youth of the time who knew more about drugs and rock and roll than the realities of war, but nonetheless were shameless in flaunting their ignorance.
Homecoming 1972 tells a tale where nobody is really “home”, but rather, all are just on third base poised to get there—maybe. Some have walked and others have run. The truth of this “homecoming” is that “home” for these characters is merely the place you are stuck in.
Something’s gotta give, and it does.
Chicago Dramatists’ Theatre
1105 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago
Performances are Thursday-Saturdays 8 PM and Sunday at 3 PM
Now through to June 23.
Tickets $32; students $15 on Thursdays
To purchase tickets or for more information visit www.chicagodramatists.org or call 312 633 0631
Photos: Jeff Pines