BWW Reviews: Harold Pinter's 'The Homecoming' at Center Stage
There are not many Broadway lyrics that mention playwrights. There is only one lyric that I am aware of that mentions the British playwright Harold Pinter. Can you name the song , the show, the composer?
Correct...the composer is Stephen Sondheim. The play Company. The song - "The Ladies Who Lunch".
Thanks to the his new book "Stephen Sondheim -Finishing the Hat" (the second time I've used his book in a review), one can see his handwritten lyric:
"Here's to the girls who stay smart,
Aren't they a gas,
Rushing to their classes in optical art,
Praying it'll pass,
Another long exhausting day,
Another thousand dollars,
A matinee, perhaps a play,
Perhaps a piece of Mahler's -
I'll drink to that."
Sondheim changed "perhaps a play" to "a PINTER play". It is a very memorable line. It has stuck with me since the first time my wife Lisa and I saw Company on our honeymoon in Florida in 1971. "A Pinter play". What could that mean?
Well, the answer can be found at Center Stage where Pinter's The Homecoming is finishing it's run this Sunday, Feb. 20. Lewis did not know when she scheduled the play that it would be her last play as Artistic Director. She has never directed a Pinter play. In a nice article about Lewis by Tim Smith in the Baltimore Sun (January 30, 2011), she states she probably wouldn't have chosen a Pinter play to end her tenure at Center Stage. She also admits she'll never do another one. But so be it.
This is NOT for everyone. For the uninitiated, Pinter is known for his....pauses... There are a lot of them. One of Lewis favorite actors (and mine), Laurence O'Dwyer, plays the role of Sam, a chauffeur. He mentions in Smith's article that Lewis talked about the "famous Pinter pause" and told the cast that "they are ...conversation. The unsaid things can really frighten you. That silence is hideous."
This is one tough play to review. I saw a few patrons leave after Act I but my advice is "DO NOT LEAVE".
Why? Because in Act II you may see action you may have never seen before in a theater. Whether you like it or not....you have never seen anything like it.
The cast is outstanding. FeliciTy Jones is marvelous in a very difficult role. She has appeared in the Center Stage productions 'Tis Pity She's a Whore and Lady Windermere's Fan. She plays the role of "Ruth" married to Teddy (Steven Epp), the eldest son of Max (the incredible Jarlath Conroy), who comes "home" (hence the title) to England after spending time six years in the U.S. as a Philosophy professor. No one knows of his marriage to Ruth. They sneak into the homestead (an ugly, unkept place done that way with aplomb by set director Richard Hernandez) in the middle of the night unexpectedly.
Living in the all-male home are Max's two other sons, Lenny (a quiet and reserved Trent Dawson) and the youngest son Joey (Sebastian Naskaris) who seems intellectually limited but yet trains as a boxer. What a motley crew!
Once again, Center Stage should be complimented for their excellent program. Production Dramaturg Whitney Eggers has three fascinating and educational articles about Pinter which will assist theater-goers to understand the "Pinter Pause". She reveals the actual event which led Pinter to write the play.
One thing Eggers does get right. She comments, "Though we can begin to understand Pinter's process, one thing remains certain - we cannot leave The Homecoming the way we walked in."
The Homecoming closes Sunday, Feb. 20. For tickets, call 410-332-0033 or visit www.centerstage.org.
Opening Night Salute to Lewis
Oh, I wish I had been there. Thanks to Center Stage Press Representative Heather Jackson for the information about the lovely tribute to Lewis after the performance.
Laurence O'Dwyer took center stage and spoke about what Lewis has meant to him. He then recited the epilogue from A Midsummer Night's Dream. He also read a letter from former Managing Director Peter Culman that is in the program.
Following that, about sixty current and former staff, artists, actors, writers (including Kwame Kwei-Armah who flew in from England), deposited one white rose for each of the productions Lewis directed. Stage Manager Lloyd Davis, Jr. recited the plays. It must have been quite a moment.
To Irene Lewis: Thanks for the Memories
The program includes a lovely four page spread about the plays Lewis has directed over the past twenty years. I have seen every single one of them. She writes and reflects upon these wonderful years.
The photos bring back so many memories.
There's The Triumph of Love (written by James Magruder), Stephen Markle in Othello, E. Faye Butler. who soon will be returning to Center Stage in her cabaret performance March 24-27, in Trouble in Mind (which I also saw at the Yale Rep. in New Haven), Terry O'Quinn (yes from the television show "Lost) in so many plays including Watch on the Rhine, Delroy Lindo in Miss Evers' Boys, Michael C. Hall in Romeo & Juliet, Liev Schreiber in Escape from Happiness (with Baltimore's Pippa Pearthree), Robert Dorfman in Servant of Two Masters, Jada Pinkett in Joe's Turner's Come and Gone, the amazing Meg Gillentine in Pajama Game, Pamela Payton-Wright in Ghosts, Kristen N. Dowtin and Eric B. Anthony in The Wiz, and performers like Avery Brooks ,Robert Foxworth, Cherry Jones, Jefferson Mays, and Lois Smith. There were young directors like Lisa Peterson and Tim Vasen. Memorable new plays like Intimate Apparel, Elmina's Kitchen, Let There Be Love, The Murder of Isaac, No Foreigners Beyond This Point, and Day of Absence. The musicals I saw for the first time - Pajama Game and Happy End.
Thanks so much Irene for bringing us all so much to remember and we'll always, always miss "The Bear"!!!
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Photo Credit: Richard Anderson