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From the left, Qasim Khan, Cheyenne Scott and Akosua Amo-Adem in The Home Project.Dahlia Katz/Soulpepper

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  • Title: The Home Project
  • Written by: Akosua Amo-Adem, Qasim Khan, Cheyenne Scott
  • Director: Keith Barker, Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, Paolo Santalucia
  • Actors: Akosua Amo-Adem, Qasim Khan, Cheyenne Scott
  • Company: The Howland Company and Native Earth Performing Arts
  • Venue: The Courtyard of the Young Centre for the Performing Arts
  • City: Toronto
  • Year: To Oct. 3, 2021

The simple set for The Home Project involves suitcases and cardboard boxes. Someone’s moving. But aren’t we all, always? The theme of this play is that one’s home evolves and eludes.

The co-creators and co-stars of The Home Project are one in the same: Akosua Amo-Adem, Qasim Khan and Cheyenne Scott. They never share the stage. Essentially delivering monologues, their characters are versions of themselves in varying degrees, linked by a shared longing for a sense of home. The result is a winning, thoughtful exercise in storytelling.

Scott is of mixed Saanich Nation/Norwegian background. She plays someone overwhelmed by a flood, physically and meta-physically adrift, whether swimming with salmon or flying with gulls in search of her lost spirit. She sings with herself using a looping device; she talks with herself using a poetic inner dialogue.

Qasim Khan doesn't share the stage with his co-stars in The Home Project, but their characters are versions of themselves in varying degrees.Dahlia Katz/Soulpepper

Khan hails from Newmarket, Ont., as does his character. We meet him at his boyhood home, where his mother still lives but is now leaving. He speaks of an idyllic 1990s childhood in a small town “on the cusp of becoming a legit suburb.” There was no traffic and a lot of hope back then. Then capitalism came, making the whole place “smell like a Yankee Candle.”

He’s in a garage filled with his old things – “my childhood in boxes.” His mother finds meaning in objects. To her it all means home.

Up last is Amo-Adem. She plays a comedian at the Turtle Island Comedy Night. This is where the production becomes participatory. As comedians do, she interacts with the audience (which is us), bringing up the subject of the COVID-19 lockdown by mentioning she hasn’t performed publicly for quite some time.

It’s a graceful way of marking the return to live theatre in Toronto. The Home Project, produced by the Howland Company in partnership with Native Earth Performing Arts, is being presented by Soulpepper Theatre in the courtyard next to the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Let’s call it a temporary “home,” with physically distanced seating pods, a proof of vaccination policy and required mask-wearing for theatregoers.

Cheyenne Scott sings with herself using a looping device, which features poetic inner dialogue.Dahlia Katz/Soulpepper

Amo-Adem starts out her monologue in an upbeat mood. Because she can’t see the mouths of the audience members, she asks for full-body laughing, “like a Black auntie watching a Tyler Perry movie.” Then she mentions that since moving to Canada from Ghana as a small child, she’s gradually lost touch with the native Twi language. Her mother mocked her for being “so Canadian.”

Her worry is that she’ll never make it back to her birthplace, and that she’ll end up taking her last breath having never returned to where she drew her first.

If she did return, what would she find? Things change and, we’re told, “things end.”

The American writer James Baldwin said, “perhaps home is not a place, but simply an irrevocable condition.” Deeply human and creatively presented, The Home Project suggests the same predicament.

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a critic’s pick designation across all coverage. (Television reviews, typically based on an incomplete season, are exempt.)

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