Review: ‘Home Street Home’ at Z Space (***1/2)

by Charles Kruger

(Rating: ***1/2)

Home-Street-Home-600x468

This reviewer is a voting associate member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)
This reviewer is a voting associate member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

(‘Home Street Home’ plays through March 7, 2015 at Z Space.)

‘Home Street Home’ (styled by its publicists as “the sHIT MUSICAL” and “not RENT”) has a rather interesting pedigree. It is the brain child of Fat Mike, lead singer for the punk band NOFX. Fat Mike has been around the block a few times, and his punk cred is unimpeachable. He was banned from an Austin club for allegedly peeing into a bottle of beer that was then drunk by patrons. I mean, how disgusting can you get?

Well, not really that disgusting. It turned out that although there was certainly pee in a bottle, the bottle was switched for clean beer before the audience could get at it.

Fat Mike comes from my own home town of Newton, Massachusetts. Trust me, Jewish boys (even atheist punk Jewish boys) from Newton do not serve piss in bottles to pass out to unsuspecting dupes. Their mothers would kill them, rock star or not.

“Home Street Home” is a stand up example of what I take to be a typical punk aesthetic: super brilliant and talented people refusing, absolutely, to be either “brilliant” or “talented” — they refuse to give a ***ck about that *hit. Punk is about being real and dirty, not cleaned up for show.

“Home Street Home” revisits territory we’ve encountered before, in “Rent” and “Avenue Q”. It takes the relatively cleaned-up visions of those shows and punks them hard. “Home Street Home” doesn’t just tell us that some of the characters are junkies — we see them shooting up, engaging in sex for pay, cutting themselves, playing bondage games, unapologetically celebrating a bohemia that is as far from “Rent” as “Rent” was from “La Boheme”. And their happy ending does not involve growing out of this street life, but rather loving one another in the midst of all the crap and giving a resounding “f*** you” to anybody who thinks they should change.

The squatting street kid denizens of "the slut hut" in "Home Sweet Home".
The squatting street kid denizens of “the slut hut” in “Home Street Home”.

On the other hand, writers Fat Mike and and Goddess Soma are polished professionals in spite of themselves, and it shows. And they have the respectful collaboration of Tony Award winning Jeff Marx (one of the creators of Avenue Q ) to smooth the edges without blunting them too much.

“Home Street Home” tells the truth about life on the streets for teenage runaways. I know. I was a teenage runaway myself back in the day, something I reference easily, but don’t often talk about in detail. Fat Mike and Goddess Soma and the characters of “Home Street Home” are letting it all hang out, however, and the result moved me. Judging from the many tears in the enthusiastic audience, other viewers felt the same.

The story of runaway Sue, rape victim (her father), who takes the punk name Sue-icide and learns to survive and thrive with her peers on the street is told with Broadway pizzazz by a troupe of triple threat performers (singers/actors/dancers) with mondo legit credits. There’s plenty of melody, cleverly constructed lyrics, sex, drugs and, um, more sex and more drugs.

It’s worth mentioning that the musicianship of the band (under the supervision of David O) is conspicuously outstanding, as is the sound mix managed by David Crawford.

If you are a lover of punk and Rodgers & Hammerstein (a combination not as unusual as you might think), you’ll get off on “Home Street Home”.

For futher information click here.

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“Home Street Home”, music by Fat Mike; lyrics by Fat Mike, Jeff Marx, & Goddess Soma; book by Goddess Soma & Fat Mike. Produced by Jeff Marx & Keith Sherman & Jeffery Bischoff & Cassandra Doved Simon. Director: Richard Israel. Scenic Design: Caite Hevner Kemp. Lighting Design: Tom Ontiveros. Costume Design: Goddess Soma. Sound Design: David Crawford. Dance Captain: Sam Given. Fight Captain: Alex Robert Holmes.

Lille: Shaleah Adkisson. Razor: Brandon Curry. Lucious: Sam Given. Trashley: Lauren Patten. Special Ed: Alex Robert Holmes. PD: Kevin H egmann. Nosmo: Matt Magnusson. Mom: Kristin Piacentile. Sue: Justine Magnusson. Officer Walker: Alex Emanuel. Big John: Ryan O’Connor. Niko: Zach Martens. Mother: Jamey Hood. 

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