A Modern Take on Homer

A Modern Take on Homer

The Brehmer Theater welcomed students and community mem­bers alike at 8 p.m. on Thursday, November 19 and Friday, November 20, for a showing of Nobody’s Home: A Modern Odyssey. Written by the cast, directed by Ailin Conant and with sound design by Otto Muller, the production is a reinvention of the classic story of The Od­yssey in the context of modern times. It features two characters: Grant, a soldier returning from war, and his wife Penny who must cope with the transformation Grant undergoes.

Played by Will Pinchin, the char­acter of Grant takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster ride. Grant, whose nickname is Odysseus, continuously has flashbacks and in­describable fears that overcome his sense of reality. Grant’s character is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, something that is com­mon among war veterans. When afflicted, moments of reality sud­denly slide into moments of chaos and confusion, rendering such tasks as remembering a doctor’s appoint­ment impossible. While, at times, such sudden transitions rendered the storyline hard to follow, it certainly made the audience’s understanding of the experience of post-traumatic stress disorder that much more realistic.

In the context of Grant’s desperate attempts to hold on to re­ality, we experience the pain of his wife, Penny. Played by Dorie Kinnear, the character of Penny helped the audience to get past the foreignness of Grant’s experiences, making it easy to sympathize with his situation. Her versatility as an actress shone through as she quickly switched into different roles throughout the play. Her ability to transition between T-Bone, Grant’s friend from the war zone whom he thinks back to, a pig and a caring and concerned wife was impressive.

The script, lighting and music undoubtedly add to the power of the play, but it is the physical involvedness of the actors that is truly striking. At times it felt more like a dance or ballet in how much the movement and physical interactions underscored the overall message of the story. However, this type of physical interaction proved necessary, for the subject – that of war – is an entirely physical act.

Through his journey of fear, questioning and confusion, Grant ultimately discovers what seems to be driving these symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder: he murdered an innocent woman. While this climax was striking, the falling action offered little resolu­tion. Grant recites a poem about returning home to Ithaca, but at the end of the play, there seems to be little hope that Grant will ever fully return psychologically. Even after the root of his symptoms is discovered, it is inevitably not enough for Grant to simply un­derstand. He must learn to cope.

What made the play so im­portant was its relevance. With soldiers returning from Iraq and more who will soon be return­ing from Afghanistan, the oc­currence of post-traumatic stress disorder will be common. The production showcased not only the horrifying realities of war and its consequences, but also empha­sized how familiar its occurrence is. Meant to be an adaption of The Odyssey, the play ultimately shows that this suffering and the psychological confusion it can bring on veterans and their loved ones is not a new concept. In­stead, it is something that has existed for centuries. Perhaps the play meant to imply an anti-war angle, perhaps not. Whatever its intention, its power resonated. In the context of our current in­volvement in war, the play undoubtedly will provide an impetus for the creation of other works seeking to explore the effects of this suffering and post-traumatic stress disorder on the American people and their future generations.