Almost Home is the debut of retired Marine and Parade publisher turned playwright, Walter Anderson. It is a good old fashioned American play about a military family welcoming their son
home from Vietnam. Told in a classic style reminiscent of Arthur Miller, Anderson sets his one
act play in a tenement apartment in the Bronx and centers it around the all too common struggle of “what happens next?”
The year is 1965. Harry, played by Joe Lisi (a real Marine Corps vet and ex-police Captain, who also appeared in Take Me Out) and Grace, played by Karen Ziemba (Contact, Bullets Over Broadway) are preparing for the return of their son Johnny, played by Jonny Orsini (The Nance, Macbeth). Johnny wants to go to college on the GI bill and become a Drill Instructor. His old teacher and current neighbor Louisa, played by Brenda Presley (Dreamgirls, The Lyons) agrees. However, the local police Lieutenant, Pappas, played by James McCaffrey (FX’s Rescue Me, ABC’s Revenge) wants Johnny to join the police force.
Joe Lisi’s real-life experience comes through well in his portrayal of Harry. The weight of alcoholism and his past as a prisoner of war rests on his shoulders throughout the piece. He is
completely believable and gives the standout performance of the play. Karen Ziemba and
Brenda Presley also deliver great performances. They are relatable and of the time period
without being caricatures.
The play itself could go on; we yearn for a second act that tells us why the police chief so desperately wants Johnny in the force. Does he make good on his threats? What happens to Harry and Grace?
This is a wonderful play. By looking to the past it illuminates the future. We get the sense that military families of today combat the same feelings, demons and pressures that they did then. It shows us that the current fight against extremism is not so different than the mid-century fight against Communism. Michael Parva deftly directs a play that comes alive about halfway through and keeps the audience on edge from that point on. It forces us to ask ourselves: What is a hero? It proves that the boundaries of war stretch into the homes of every American citizen and that the fight is never really over. It illuminates the fact that once you go to war you can never truly return home. It shows us that no matter how bad life gets devotion to family is the most important thing and in the end, no matter how hard we try to protect ourselves and those we love no one gets away clean.
Almost Home runs through October 12th at The Acorn Theater on theater row. 410 W
42nd St. www.theaterrow.org (212) 239-6200