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Come Home to Syracuse Stage: Sonita Surratt directs

PHOTOS by Michael Davis (except for that of playwright Samm-Art Williams), used courtesy of Syracuse Stage; reprints are not for sale via Eagle Newspapers.

"You -- sun-bather!" growls Cephus Miles (Semaj Miller), turning in the midst of trouble to cast a furious, dark, sidelong glance at the heavens.

For a long time God has not answered this clean-hearted young man from mid-century Cross Roads, North Carolina. A man of less imagination might simply conclude that he had been foolish in his youth and that God was missing altogether. But some years ago, in a lighter, more wheedling mood, Cephus suggested that his old friend the Almighty, with whom he used to talk regularly, must be "on vacation in Miami." Variations on this idea -- shaded with a gamut of emotions from pleading to despair to sarcasm to mockery -- flicker through Samm-Art Williams' "Home" like a bright golden thread.

It's easy to see why Sonita Surratt would find this script beguiling, but maintaining the freshness of such golden threads through an entire production takes considerable skill. Surratt manages that with room to spare in directing Williams' Tony Award-nominated play, now at Syracuse Stage's Black Box Theatre.

"I looked at a lot of plays before this one was offered to me," said Surratt last Friday, standing in the lobby on opening night. "But once I read the script, that was it. It was the same thing as last year's production, when I did Horton Foote's 'A Young Lady of Property.'"

Then Surratt added, "And this cast has worked so hard! You know, I love epic novels and this play is kind of like an epic. There are 28 characters! And four cast members! We had to workshop all those characters and, you know, how they would move at whatever age they would be."

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