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Coming Home 

When: Jan. 15-Feb. 28 2010
Price: $13.50 - $71

Like Strindberg or Ibsen, contemporary playwright Athol Fugard has a knack for pressure-cooker dramas in which everything leads up to the moment of "too late." More importantly, his plays always shoulder the weight of history -- specifically that of his South African homeland. Fugard's latest, Coming Home, tells the story of Veronica (Roslyn Ruff), a small-town woman who sets out for the big city (Cape Town), but fails to improve her lot. Veronica returns to her village with a young son, a pernicious secret, and a sack of dead dreams, but finds solace in an old friend, Alfred (Thomas Silcott). Under the direction of Gordon Edelstein, this production rings all the juice out of Fugard's writing. Ruff and Silcott stretch out the dialogue and use their bodies to reveal big things with small gestures. Ruff is particularly forceful. She starts off a bumptious maninizer, and over the course of two hours (or five years, in the timeline of the play), she crumples. Eugene Lee's shanty-town set -- complete with its windmill and vegetable patch -- create a space of lost innocence for Veronica. Indeed, the word "home" has many implications. Through Feb. 28 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre (2025 Addison St., Berkeley). $13.50-$71. BerkeleyRep.org

— Rachel Swan

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