Searching the Depths Of Harold Pinter's Dark 'Homecoming'

THE HOMECOMINGPlay by Harold Pinter. Directed by Gordon Edelstein. Starring Lindsay Crouse, Roy Dotrice, Daniel Gerroll, Jonathan Hogan. At the Criterion Center Stage Right through Dec. 8. HAROLD PINTER'S "The Homecoming a Tony and Critics' Circle Award-winner in its day - continues to mingle the literal and the enigmatic. To the extent possible, penetrating the enigma depends on the perception with which this 1960s grimly black comedy is acted. The cast assembled by the Roundabout Theatre Company at its new Broadway home, the Criterion Center Stage Right, is nothing if not perceptive. Notably headed by Roy Dotrice as the blustering, bullying paterfamilias Max, the company illuminates many of the play's dark corners without relieving the spectator of the need for his own guesswork. The title is, in any case, transparently literal. Six-years married, Teddy (Jonathan Hogan) and Ruth (Lindsay Crouse) have come from California for their first visit to Teddy's family. In addition to widower Max, a retired butcher, the scruffy London household includes his brother Sam (John Horton), a liveried chauffeur proud of his standing in his car-hire firm, and Teddy's younger brothers. Lenny (Daniel Gerroll) is a pimp with a scarifying line of violent talk, and Joey (Reed Diamond), an aspiring box er. While vindictiveness abounds, the play's violence is nearly all verbal. The language is variously extravagant, vulgarly explicit, and rife with traded insults and ominous implications. By the play's nightmarish end, Ruth has been installed as her in-laws' mistress and agreed to earn her keep as part-time prostitute. Professor Teddy will return to California, his academic pursuits, and the couple's three children. No one appears to be outraged by the outrageousness of this arrangement. For those who can take its grimness and sexual explicitness, the play's appeal lies in the theatricality of Pinter's craftsmanship and the odd believability of his characters. Max is a monstrous stage creation - part braggart, part self-pitying whiner, incorrigibly voluble. Some of his verbal jousts (notably with the sardonic Lenny) are part of a continuing ritual governed by tacitly accepted rules. Mr. Dotrice revels in the role of Max; Mr. Gerroll's Lenny is an antagonist who gives and expects no quart er. In contrast to her hosts, Ruth is so apparently placid that her ultimate calculated reply to the family's immodest proposal still comes as one of the play's surprises. The decorative Ms. Crouse handles Ruth's transformation with complete and, in the end, chilling aplomb. The wife's acquiescence is no less astonishing than Teddy's unprotesting withdrawal from the situation. It merely seems to confirm the professor's motives for distancing himself from his noisome pa and delinquent siblings. Mr. Hogan's ca sual air seems just what Pinter called for. The group portrait is believably completed by Mr. Horton's earnestly self-approving Sam and Mr. Diamond's callow Joey. Gordon Edlestein has staged a revival that serves both the bland surfaces and sinister undertones of a work in which the casual is also the ominous. John Arnone has designed and furnished a seedy North London habitat, with costumes by William Ivey Long, plus lighting (and half-lighting) by Peter Kaczorowski. Pinter called his work "comedy of menace." "The Homecoming" can also be described as comedy of disgust. It was first presented on Broadway in 1967 by the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

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