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Kushner’s haunting ‘Homebody’ on stage in Hamilton

Debra Wise in ‘Homebody’

SEPTEMBER 14, 2017 – Just months after the attacks of 9/11 in 2001, Tony Kushner’s “Homebody/Kabul” debuted as if he had a crystal ball vision of the crisis that enveloped the world.

“I didn’t imagine, when I was working on the play, that by the time we produced it, the United States would be at war with Afghanistan. I am not psychic,” wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, who was immersed in “Homebody” long before 9/11. “If you choose to write about current events, there’s a chance you will find the events you’ve written about to be …well, current.”

Now 16 years later, the United States is still in Afghanistan with no end in sight and Kushner’s play still brilliantly touches how wars affect us all.

After a successful run in Cambridge, “Homebody” is coming to The Black Box Lab at Stage 284 at The Community House, 284 Bay Road, in Hamilton for three performances: Saturday, September 23 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, September 24 at 4 p.m.

Set in London in 1998, “Homebody” tells the story of a lonely, depressed, and overmedicated woman whose infatuation with the history and culture of Afghanistan leads her to decide to escape her safe world and travel to the Middle East.

“In the Jewish tradition of storytelling, Kushner uses a sense of humor to tell a deeply emotional and personal story,” said Debra Wise, who portrays Kushner’s protagonist in the Hamilton production.

Wise is an award-winning Boston Equity actress and founder of the Underground Railroad Theater in Cambridge. She imbibes the “Homebody” with fragility and naiveté mixed with a romantic notion of the world based on what she reads in outdated travel guides.

“It is a virtuoso piece,” added Wise. “The character I play speaks directly to the audience. It is a very personal experience.”

According to Wise, her character was based on Kushner’s own mother Sylvia, who died in 1990.

“His mother was involved in social justice, very verbal like my character, and had a sense of humor,” Wise said. “‘The Homebody’ is like a luxuriant plant that has been kept in a dark house. All she knows of the world has come from books. Her upper middle class life has restricted her and she is succumbing to luxury.”

Afghanistan represents an escape from her safe life that is also her prison.

“I found it captivating from the first time I read it,” Wise said. “I just love the language. The play speaks to me in a number of ways as an artist, but also personally. I fell in love with this character and it has become one of my most rewarding roles. I am thrilled to bring this work to the North Shore.”

Though born in New York, Kushner grew up in Lake Charles on the Louisiana bayou as part of a small Jewish minority. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize for “Angels in America,” Kushner has earned two Tony Awards and written the screenplays for Stephen Spielberg films “Munich” and “Lincoln.”

He received an honorary doctorate from Brandeis University in 2006 and the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in 2013.

Tickets to the Hamilton production are $18 in advance at communityhouse.org, or $20 at the door. 

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