A house is not a home, or is it? Sobelle’s ‘Home’ looks at the differences between the two at Berkeley Rep

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Live music is one component of Berkeley Rep’s “Home,” performed by Elvis Perkins, left. The show is created by Geoff Sobelle, center, and runs through April 21st. (Kevin Berne photo)

On the surface, the defined differences between the words house and home are subtle. But as the connotations of each word are more deeply explored, they couldn’t be further apart if they tried.

A house is purely a structure, a static collection of spackle, sheet rock and wires designed to protect people from nature’s elements. But the home is where the memories are made, meals are shared, heartbreak and death comes and goes. And at some point, the cycle ends, the kids and grandkids move on to other homes. The old structure then repeats the cycle with new occupants.

You buy a house, but you make a home.

Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s latest production is the West Coast premiere of “Home,” now running through April 21st at the Roda Theatre. The show is the brainchild of artist and creator Geoff Sobelle, a native of Santa Monica who now resides in Brooklyn.

The show premiered back in 2017 in Philadelphia at the Fringe Arts Festival. It went on to both Boston and New York City, but spent the bulk of its time on the international circuit shortly after, performing in New Zealand, Germany, the United Kingdom and Australia.

The critically acclaimed piece has already received raves in the Bay Area, and was described by the Boston Globe as “… a wholly unique blend of concept, stagecraft, movement, live music from Elvis Perkins and visual storytelling that gives fast-moving form to the ways, large and small, in which a house becomes a home.”

It kicks off from nothing to plenty of something. From a bare space comes the moment when a house goes up quickly, and within the 105 minutes of the show’s uninterrupted length, time and space are transcended, creating a world where everyone who ever lived in the house all gather for a great big, party.

For Sobelle, he is compelled by the nuances of the two words.

“The show is a mediation on the words house and home and looks at the differences between the two,” said Sobelle, 43. “A house is easy to describe, but home can be a little befuddling. When you ask people what is a home, the responses are very personal, idiosyncratic or abstract.”

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“A house is easy to describe, but home can be a little befuddling. When you ask people what is a home, the responses are very personal, idiosyncratic or abstract.” – Geoff Sobelle, creator of “Home.” (Berkeley Rep photo)

Houses and homes are in constant, fluid motion. As times change and the years move, houses change, carpets are ripped out, rooms are expanded, and pictures get added and replaced. And as the house changes, so do the people. One moment, the owners of the house obtain their keys and walk in with a new baby, and the next moment, they’re packing up boxes for that baby to go to college, a lifetime of memories in hand underneath the same roof.

Not only does Sobelle love the idea that an audience will make this show very personal, he is also intrigued by the show’s ability to showcase some very clever stagecraft, especially in the way a house appears and develops. Using the magic of illusion and stagecraft is at the heart of the show, all the while being rooted in a very humanist approach.

“I will say we begin with an empty stage and a solo performer, and we end up with a two-story house and 40 people on the stage,” said Sobelle. “How we get there almost seems like magic as we watch the evolution and life cycle of a house. It really shows how we share space with people who come before and after us.”

The show is interactive with live music, dancing and audience participation. And one of the show’s wonders is that it gives everyone a chance to create their own home in a unique way.

“The way it operates, it’s a blank slate and the viewer sees their own story,” said Sobelle. “The viewer brings their own triggered empathy, and part of what’s curious is that it’s not just the place and not necessarily always a structure. It could be a particular smell or even a group of people.”

WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO

Berkeley Repertory Theatre presents “Home”
Created by Geoff Sobelle
Directed by Lee Sunday Evans
The Roda Theatre at Berkeley Rep
2105 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA
Through April 21st
Running Time: One hour, 45 minutes with no intermission
Tickets range from $30 – $97
For tickets, call (510) 647-2949 or visit www.berkeleyrep.org

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