COMING HOME at Berkeley Rep a winner

(l to r) At Berkeley Rep, Thomas Silcott, Kohle Thomas Bolton and Roslyn Ruff star in Coming Home by master dramatist Athol Fugard. Photo courtesy of

COMING HOME by written Athol Fugard, directed by Gordon Edelstein. Berkeley Repertory Theatre's Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley. (510) 647-2949 or


The anti-apartheid “Blood Knot” was the first play that earned Athol Fugard international acclaim, and as a first play had minor faults that pervade his later work. Most of his overly long plays, constructed with slender plots, are a bit didactic and have a metaphysical touch. “Coming Home” has all these qualities and runs two hours and 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission. However, Berkeley Rep’s magnificent physical staging, with a top-notch cast brilliantly directed by Gordon Edelstein is a not to be missed production.

“COMING HOME” is a sequel to “Valley Song” that expressed hope for the South African “colored” population after apartheid. In “Valley Song” 17-year-old Veronica Jonkers, raised by her grandfather Oupa Jonkers, leaves her country home to seek fame and fortune as a singer in Johannesburg/Cape Town. “Coming Home” is set 10 years later after disillusioned Veronica (the brilliant Roslyn Ruff) returns with her five-year-old son Mannetjie (Kohle T. Bolton) to the run down shack. Oupa has died and the shack is bare but ever-hopeful Veronica describes how she will fix up the place creating a cheerful home for Mannetjie.

Fugard creates a fascinating character named Alfred Witbooi (an incredible performance by Thomas Silcott) a local simpleton without formal education. He has salvaged and guarded Oupa’s belongings from the clutches of those who would steal them. His simple dialog and fond remembrances of young Veronica and her vibrant singing are expressed in the plaintive explanation to Mannetjie, “When she left, she made he whole valley empty.”

Fugard’s concern in this play is the failure of the government to acknowledge and care for those ravaged by HIV/AIDS. Veronica is one of those and hides her secret from the locals who are uneducated to the nature and transmission of THE disease. In Act one there is a 4-year shift in time shown with a swift, brilliant, unobtrusive scene change from the rundown shack to a colorful “home.” Mannetjie, now 9 years old (Jaden Malik Wiggins) is an excellent student with an antipathy to Alfred whose friendship is paramount to Veronica’s plans to provide and protect her son.

The metaphysical is injected into the play’s construction with the introduction of Oupa’s ghost who interacts with Veronica and later in the play with Mannetjie, once again expressing hope for the future with the symbolic planting of pumpkin seeds. The battle of wills between Mannetjie and Alfred takes up the major portion of Act 2 and the resolution may bring a tear to your eyes.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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