Home Is Where the Hurt Is

SCRs The Homecoming

Photo by Henry DiRoccoThe Homecominggives playwright Harold Pinter the chance to pit a man of abstract ideas against his family of vulgar butchers, boxers and pimps. The prize in this battle is the intellectual's wife—a hollow, bloodless sort who, before the play begins, has never met his family. Dropped into this lion's den, she must choose between her husband and their three children and her husband's four male relations, who want her as mother, housekeeper and whore.

It's a trippy play, one that asks many more questions than it could ever answer. It's not for audiences who want linear plots and dots connected. Like all of Pinter's earliest, greatest works (The Birthday Party, The Dumb Waiter), the sands of this play shift. Nothing is verifiable. The characters are all strangely isolated. And violence and sexual tension lurk around every corner—and every clever turn of phrase.

The play is many things: a comedy of menace, a brutal look at family, a misogynistic rant that is, paradoxically, undeniably feminist. But on the most abstract of levels, it's also an exquisitely well-crafted puzzle that explores the gap between reality and perception, being and nonbeing. It's an exploration that yields no real clues, but when fully yielded to, The Homecomingcan serve as a synaptic cocktail and even a legal, nontoxic, mental mushroom trip for the more neurotically susceptible.

This South Coast Repertory production benefits from a stellar cast (W. Morgan Sheppard is pure theatrical gold as the bitter, vulgar patriarch of the clan), although Martin Benson's direction seems at times to aim for broad laughs at the expense of some of the more warped subtext.

Few plays of the past half-century have been so thoroughly dissected as The Homecoming. This serviceable production doesn't shed new light on a work that has been so minutely analyzed, but it does a good job of serving up Pinter's play in all its ambiguous, sexually charged glory. These characters are erratic, contradictory. They don't know what they want; they don't know who they are. They are undeniably, painfully human. And this production, like any good production of a Pinter play, shows that nearly 40 years after it was first staged, The Homecomingisn't merely timeless—it's timely.

The Homecoming at South Coast Repertory's Mainstage, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5561. Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m. Through Nov. 18. $27-$52.

 
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