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Pinter's "The Homecoming" at the Cort Theatre
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Pinter's "The Homecoming" at the Cort Theatre

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The Homecoming
By Harold Pinter
(Harold Pinter Website)

At the
Cort Theatre
138 West 48th Street

Ian McShane as Max
Raúl Esparza as Lenny
Michael McKean as Sam
Gareth Saxe as Joey
James Frain as Teddy
Eve Best as Ruth

Directed by Daniel Sullivan
Set Design: Eugene Lee
Costume Design: Jess Goldstein
Lighting Design: Kenneth Posner
Sound Design: John Gromada
Casting: Telsey + Company
Production Stage Manager: Roy Harris
Fight Director: Rick Sordelet
Press Representative: Jeffrey Richards Assoc./Irene Gandy
Director of Marketing: HHC Marketing
Special Promotions: TMG: The Marketing Group
General Management: Albert Poland
Technical Supervision: Hudson Theatrical Associates

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 18, 2008

The Homecoming, Pinter’s 1967 play, is still searing, disturbing, and, as we ripen along with the play, almost identifiable, at least in the moment. This is a dysfunctional family of six: Max, the father, a retired North London butcher, Lenny, a stay-at-home son and a local pimp, Sam, Max’s chauffeur brother, who also lives in Max’s house, Joey, a not-too-bright boxer, also in the “household”, Teddy, the Professor son, who escaped to America, and Ruth, Teddy’s American wife, who becomes psychically and erotically drawn to three of the four men of the “household”. The fourth man, Sam, the Chauffeur with a conscience, literally collapses in the final scene, in which Ruth abandons her traditional American life to accept the dangerous bargain proposed right here in North London. Sam also reveals a long-held secret about Max’s deceased wife, Jessie, as her dual role of mother-adulteress is revealed.

One might conjecture, is Ruth the object of physical or maternal desire? But, to get this far into the unfolding drama, we witness the cane-wielding Max (superbly embodied in Ian McShane, who, like the play, made his Broadway debut four decades ago), as he sucks the air from the tired London set with degrading and violent behavior (emotional and physical) toward Lenny and Joey, like a hungry lion in a cage of prey. The sharp-as-a-knife language, filled with expletives and pregnant pauses, is mostly saved for Lenny. The gutter-punches are reserved for Joey, as retribution for not pandering to Max’s ego. Raúl Esparza, as Lenny, sent chills up my spine. In spite of his often whiny monologues, his verbal duels with Teddy and Max were aimed at sheer survival, as his mind worked in high gear to match and outdo each wordy proposition. When Lenny was faced with the sexually confident Ruth, he became her prey, but only temporarily, as the power shifts of this ensemble were like nuclear-propelled pendulums, and suddenly the prey was the predator, in varying solos, duos, and trios. Psychic drama choreographed to perfection.

Eve Best, as Ruth, was introduced slowly as a trophy wife, as the Professor Teddy’s American catch, his reward for a six-year estrangement from this hate-filled “household”. But, that introduction soon morphed into the image of a prostitute, as she worked the room publicly, arousing Joey, Lenny, and, in a very big way, Max. The way she walked, spoke, crossed a leg, gazed at her “men”, catapulted her visit into a family plan, a money-making venture to fill the coffers, with Lenny’s connections and conniving. Not part of this plan were Sam and Teddy, the latter shockingly returning to the three American children of their own, as cool as a cucumber. And, Sam, the conscience-driven uncle, could not take the tension. James Frain, as Teddy, maintained his emotional distance, created from years of family separation. Michael McKean, as Sam, was the one normal root to this poisoned family tree. Gareth Saxe, as Joey, was the quiet boulder in the room.

Jess Goldstein’s costumes set off each character’s expressive attitude. Kenneth Posner’s lighting filled the set with dim, smoky stuffiness. And, Eugene Lee’s set, with offstage doors, stairs, and shabby furniture, enhanced the dreariness. Daniel Sullivan directed this extraordinary cast with natural nuance, down to Lenny’s facial ticks and Max’s seething crouches. Kudos to Harold Pinter.

Ian McShane in "The Homecoming"
Courtesy of Scott Landis

Ian McShane and Gareth Saxe in "The Homecoming"
Courtesy of Scott Landis

Eve Best in "The Homecoming"
Courtesy of Scott Landis

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