coming home 2.jpg Roslyn Ruff and Lou Ferguson in Coming Home.

In Coming Home, playwright Athol Fugard returns to the Jonkers’ home in a reexamination of post-apartheid life. Home is not much–a patchy tin roof over a spot in Karoo, South Africa–but it’s a retreat for Veronica, who comes back with a child and a debilitating disease. A barometer of South Africa’s political landscape, she is no longer the teenager full of hope as she was in Fugard’s 1995 Valley Song.

At Berkeley Rep, Roslyn Ruff holds court on stage as Veronica even if her accent slips from time to time. Her silence proves powerful when her character angrily succumbs deeper to her disease. As she slowly slips into the background, the conflict between her friend Alfred (Thomas Silcott) and her son (Jaden Malik Wiggins) comes to a head. Here, we see Silcott shine as Alfred, from his wide-eyed and animated entrance to his childish bickering with the son.

The play is slow to pick up, but once it does, it builds to a crescendo. The world is unraveling around Veronica but she can’t let her neighbors know. Mannetjie, her son, excels at school, but we find out that he may not be able to afford to continue his education. Alfred comes clean with his own secret, and in turn gives up his only lifelong desire. Though long-dead, Oupa (Lou Ferguson) still haunts the house. In the final scene between Oupa and Mannetjie, the play screams “THIS IS A METAPHOR,” but besides the heavy-handedness the ending is neat and offers some hope for these South Africans still struggling to survive.

Of course, the politics are there. It’s why the characters are in their separate and yet completely related situations. Underneath the surface, and even inside this kitchen drama, the political failure of the new South Africa shows. Nothing is certain or easy, thanks to the government. At Jonkers’ home, at the threshold of dashed past hopes, Fugard offers a mucky present as a jumping off point for a new, fertile future.

Coming Home continues at Berkeley Rep until February 28. See more information on dates, times, and tickets here.

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  • Nigel Blampied

    I appreciated, “Coming Home” after adjusting to the Jamaican intonation. It is an excellent performance.

    I was most disappointed, however, in the Berkeley Rep magazine that was handed to patrons. It included an article on the history of South Africa written by Rachel Viola. Clearly Ms. Viola and her editor had not taken the time to check their facts. I had difficulty finding a sentence in the article that is not of questionable accuracy. Much of it is complete fiction. I was surprised that Ms. Viola and the Berkeley Rep would chose to invent facts that are so obviously incorrect. Diamonds were not unearthed in Johannesburg. Kimberley was not in Dutch territory. Cecil Rhodes was not the first Prime Minister of the Cape. The Transvaal and Orange Free State were not Colonial Dutch States from 1910 to 1994. The states that were united in 1910 were not independent. The National Party was not founded in 1912. The International Court of Justice did not make any rulings on South Africa’s operations in Angola. Cornelius Mulder was never the leader of the National Party.

    I could go on, sentence by sentence, describing how questionable, inaccurate and untrue this article is. The actual history of apartheid is horrific. There is no need to invent a false history.