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Two nattily dressed English gentlemen meet in what seems to be a local public park. They are Harry (Larry Keith) and Jack (Simon Jones), and they sit and reminisce, uttering half-finished phrases in a poetic staccato pattern as they speak of war, weather, and work. Thus begins David Storey's delicate and tender 1970 play, seemingly small but by play's end remarkably substantial. This is most suitably so for a play in which nothing is what it seems to be. When the two gents are joined by two working-class women, the giggly Kathleen (Cynthia Darlow) and the meanly prim Marjorie (Cynthia Harris), it becomes clear that the setting is not a public park. As we get acquainted with our quartet of characters, we experience the odd combination of amusement and pity, with truth a constant variable. Later there's Albert (Ron McClary), a lobotomized wrestler who represents a reality nobody wishes to acknowledge.

Home is the first fully staged production of the Actors Company Theatre, commonly known as TACT, which over the past 14 years has given concert-performance readings of superior plays that have been discarded, lost, or mislaid, providing sterling service to New York theatregoers. This production, ably directed by Scott Alan Evans, is up to TACT's usual high standard.

Storey is able to suggest with these characters much more than the incidental happenings on stage. He implies that while the men may be the well-mannered dreamers, it is the women who are the vital life force. And in the play's elegiac ending, complete with setting sun, Storey provides a metaphor for a fading England: "Empire the like of which no one has ever seen.... Light of the world."

Performances that are both strong and subtle are given by all. Jones cheerfully drives the play, while Keith provides melancholy ballast. Though Harris' accent may be a little insecure, her sharp characterization is not, and Darlow, in probably the production's best performance, is nothing less than a blowsy delight.

Presented by the Actors Company Theatre

at the Beckett Theatre, 410 W. 42nd St., NYC.

Dec. 7-23. Mon., Wed.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.

(212) 279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com.

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