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Home Ain't Nothin' But a Word 

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HOME AIN'T NOTHIN' BUT A WORD, Hidden Stages Productions, at Blackwell Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church. However original the play's criticism might have seemed when Hidden Stages first presented Margaret Smith Lowery's agenda-packed Home Ain't Nothin' but a Word in 1993, in 1999 it comes across as a shrill jeremiad on American social policies governing the homeless. Rife with scorn and despair, it examines welfare, unemployment compensation, the VA, AA, shelters, missions, halfway houses, and SRO hotels--and finds all of them wanting. The only road to independence Lowery offers her down-on-their-luck hero and heroine involves swallowing their pride and accepting help from their friends; then, of course, they live happily ever after.

Fortunately the cast of this revival includes Doris Craig Norris in the role of Sally, a derelict everywoman whose tattered fur coat and shabby sequined gown bespeak better days, and Gregory Christopher Armstrong as Eddie, her chivalrous Vietnam-vet sidekick. Expertly directed by Gerald H. Bailey, they have enough dignity to make their cut-and-paste characters engaging and entertaining. The supporting players fare less well, though Mark Fitzpatrick makes a valiant effort as a security guard caught between his duties and his humane impulses, as does Constance Rice in her deliciously overdone portrayal of a seductive thief and con artist. Hidden Stages may still be an itinerant troupe, living up to its name, but each production by this pioneering Bronzeville company shows improvement.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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