If we try to break down The Great Distance Home to its components: movement, music, dance, pantomime, few actual spoken words, it really does no justice; though a hybrid, a kind of performance art might begin to explain. Conceived and directed by Kelsey Leigh Ervi, The Great Distance Home establishes the Christmas milieu of urgency, the frantic rush to complete cooking, shopping, traveling and so on. Emerging from this whirlwind a birth is taking place. The mother goes into labor, the husband faints. Perhaps this intersects with another arrival and the celebration of Christmas, or more simply, the powerful association of Christmas and family. When the boy is born and the politics of connection arise, we grasp we’re participating in his travails and joys as time turns his essential clock. We see his low points and triumphs, his grief and gladness. We get a substantive feel for his attachments and how he moves through the world.
There is a brilliance, an ingeniousness to Distance Home. Currently there seems to be a trend towards creating a narrative from the bare bones of few props and objects, but here (lamps, chairs, ladder, ropes, hats…) the elements coalesce. It doesn’t feel gimmicky. There’s a lyricism, a sparse selection of detail that evokes like haiku. It’s an odd mix of the whimsical and wistful, the agonizing and droll. We see the young man strutting to impress a young lady, locking horns with his dad, aching to embrace his parents as he strikes out in this icy world. Distance Home creates its own, preverbal language of experience. It imbues particular moments with such implacable humanity, it overtakes before we realize we’ve been hooked. The sophistication is hidden, but its there.
Ervi and her nimble, intuitive ensemble have stirred up a powerful, exhilarating, fresh way of considering the Christmas Holidays, filled with emotion and trepidation. It’s truly a marvel to see how meticulously, lightly, they define the space and moment. It’s like an ongoing whirligig sequence by Rube Goldberg or a toy train that turns itself into a submarine, then a plane, then a bicycle. Sometimes these moving tableaux are witty, sometimes grim, sometimes sublime. It takes a special kind of bravery, a jazzy sense of confidence, a naked sense of savoring the kinetic, to summon an experience like The Great Distance Home. You just may leave intoxicated.
WaterTower Theatre presents The Great Distance Home. Playing December 1st-17th, 2017. 15650 Addison Road, Addison, Texas 75001972-450-6262. www.watertowertheatre.org.