New York City Theater
Cort Theatre, Broadway
There’s a mysterious, ambiguous quality to the works of the eminent British playwright Harold Pinter. In his hands, the silences, the pregnant pauses, are as meaningful as words.
And now, in the current Broadway production of “The Homecoming” under Daniel Sullivan’s sensitive direction, those silences come into their own. Pinter never gives out the answers, but forces the viewer to interpret. “The Homecoming” indeed allows for free-ranging interpretations—this time, in an impeccably-staged production.
The story is that Teddy, a college professor of philosophy, now based in the States, returns to his British family for an unexpected visit. He brings with him, also unexpectedly, his wife Ruth, mother of his three sons. The old homestead is not what might be expected, but actually the scene of a working-class, low-level ménage. The father Max is a loud-mouthed braggart of a butcher, his son Lenny a pimp, his younger son Joey an aspiring, slow-witted boxer, his brother Sam a chauffeur. Into this all-male stronghold wanders the professor and his nubile wife. (The mother Jessie is long gone from the home—and small wonder!)
With the new woman on the scene, it all plays out in a struggle for domination. Sex is not so much an aphrodisiac as a power tool. Who are the losers, who are the winners? Pinter does not spell it out, but leaves it to the viewers to interpret as they will.
One might see “The Homecoming” as a modern-day version of the Old Testament Book of Ruth. Ruth is brought home to her husband’s people (“Your people will be my people.”) But the noble Biblical tale is set on its end, turned awry—and in fact given a shocking amoral twist.
If one allows one’s imagination free-range, one might also see “The Homecoming” as a Peter Pan tale. Peter has brought Wendy back to the Lost Boys, to be their mother, to care for them. Again, a dark, scary version of a gentle, lovable tale.
However one interprets this “Homecoming,” Sullivan offers up a superb production, with Eve Best (as Ruth) at its chilling core. With every twist of her legs, with every sip of water, with every pause, she dominates the stage. Surrounding her, like planets around the sun, are Ian McShane (Max), Raul Esparza (Lenny), Michael McKean (Sam), Gareth Saxe (Joey), and James Frain (Teddy)—each creating a striking portrait. The garrulous Max and the shrewd Lenny are particularly strong in their roles.
In all, a first-rate presentation of Pinter’s classic drama—“The Homecoming.” But we are left on our own, to make of it what we will.
Jan. 20, 2008