Home and Away | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Home and Away 

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Some of the experiences 35-year-old actor-playwright Kevin Ming shares in the "home" section of his charming and funny memory piece Home and Away are a little odd: the Boy Scout taxidermy display that backfired, for instance, or his attempted escape from the hospital for "kids with missing pieces" where Ming was sent as a child to have his stunted left arm treated. But most of his stories are recollections of growing up like thousands of other boys in heavily Lutheran Minnesota--fighting with his brother in the backseat of the family car, passing out in church after seeing how long he could hold his breath during the sermon, experimenting with drugs as a teenager, imagining the mysteries of Catholicism (he thought catechism must be a cross between catacombs and hypnotism), or confronting his parents' divorce. The events Ming recalls in the monologue's "away" sequence are a little more unusual: the grown-up Ming travels to Czechoslovakia, where he's startled to learn one of his plays has been banned not by the country's government but by image-conscious U.S. officials, and to Australia, where he learns how to play his uniquely personal note on a huge hollow woodwind instrument called a didgeridoo. Throughout, Ming presents his material with quirky humor (avoiding condescending satire of the Lake Wobegon variety), an engaging walleyed amazement at life's richness, and a mercurial emotional range. Beautifully paced and lighted under Steven Dietz's direction, Home and Away is buoyed even in its darkest moments by Ming's sheer, honest pleasure in the act of story telling. Goodman Studio Theatre, through March 22 (200 S. Columbus, 443-3800). Thursday, 7:30 PM; Friday-Sunday, 8 PM. $5.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Chris Bennion.

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