BWW Reviews: St. Louis Actors' Studio's Powerful Production of THE HOMECOMING
Harold Pinter's The Homecoming has been referred to as one of his early "menacing" comedies. I suppose that that's an accurate enough description, but I would say that the actual humor is pitch black in nature. It's a twisted tale that Pinter writes, and it's funny in the most unsettling ways. Characters ask questions that are often ignored, leaving long uncomfortable silences that truly speak volumes. The St. Louis Actors' Studio has assembled a superb cast that understands this material has to be played straight to really pay off, and under Milton Zoth's expert direction they excel.
The synopsis is simple: the elder son of a family in Britain is returning home for a short visit with his wife in tow. The hard part is explaining the peculiar interactions that occur once this supremely dysfunctional, perverted and male-dominated family, is invaded by the presence of a woman. And, I'll leave it at that, because nothing is as ever what it seems, anyway, and there are too many dark surprises that are best left unsaid.
Peter Mayer is simply superb as Max, the unkempt and fading patriarch of this messy assemblage. He's a firebrand of rage, who seems forever stuck in time, and his presence dominates the action, even when he's offstage for a bit. Missy Heinemann plays elder son Teddy's (a purposely ineffectual Ben Ritchie) unstable wife, Ruth. Their interplay is cloaked in mystery, and that neatly contributes to the unstable nature of this piece. Larry Dell is smartly and quietly restrained as Max's brother Sam. He's pushed to his limits by Max's diatribes, but he's able to restrain himself from reacting to any of his bile. Charlie Barron does very nice work as middle son Lenny. You never know whether you should be taking his abrasiveness seriously or not, and that's a tribute to Barron's understanding of the character. Nathan Bush fills out the family as youngest brother, Joey. He's an aspiring boxer, and a bit dim, but he's key to a plot twist that happens.
Milton Zoth's direction keeps the tension mounting throughout, and his work with the cast is finely honed. Patrick Huber's scenic design captures the dingy, shattered nature of this clan with precision, and his lighting nicely captures the proper mood. Carla Landis Evans contributes simple and effective costumes and props that add to the atmosphere.
The Homecoming is a nerve rattling experience, and one I wouldn't have missed. Check out The St. Louis Actors' Studio's current production (though June 8, 2014), it's a real corker.