Monday, March 7, 2022

North Coast’s Excellent “The Homecoming” Flies in the Face of Reality

Watching a Pinter play is like being in a house of horrors. Some sights might seem well, normal, others will make you squirm! In this “The Homecoming” currently on stage now through March 27th at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Lomas Santa Fe, both things happen. 

There are six characters, none of whom is likeable. Outstanding all, Richard Baird formally of New Fortune Theatre Company, who was so wonderful in Harold Pinter’s ‘Betrayal’ recently at North Coast Repertory Theatre and some years ago as director and playing the character McCann in “The Birthday Party” is tackling Pinter once again in the playwright’s “comedy of menace” or theatre of the absurd. 

Dressed to the nines (Elisa Benzoni) Baird’s Lenny has the look of a predator stalking his pray. He’s ready on the attack at a moment’s provocation. He’s a pimp by profession.

The second son of Max (Frank Corrado making a special appearance after a five year absence to be in a Pinter’s play) Lenny is sandwiched between older brother Teddy (Bruce Turk), a professor of philosophy returning for a visit after a six year absence and the younger Joey, (Justin Gordon) who is a wanna be boxer. Completing the ‘family’ is Sam (James Newcomb) Max’s brother, a soft spoken from the old school, he's a chauffeur by choice. From the tone of the conversation right out of the chute, we know trouble lies ahead in what’s about to happen in “The Homecoming”.  

The characters in Pinter’s world of “The Homecoming” are no better than his characters in every other of his plays. Classifying them is an exercise in futility; none is any better or worse than the other, it’s just a matter of degree.   


The cast of "The Homecoming"

Lenny is a predator. Max was a butcher by trade and a bully just by the fact that he can be as the head of the household. Contradicting even the legitimacy of his children, which he does to their questioning, is vile yet he takes joy in making them squirm. Joey is an intellectual void. Teddy is the professor and Sam, Max’s brother, is the weak linkof the family. 

Later Ruth, Teddy’s wife, who is a tease and a control freak, (just what the all- male dominated family needed in their home -stead) turns the family dynamic on its head.  

When they are all together, in their oversized North London living room (Marty Burnett) where, under artistic director and director David Ellenstein’s expertise, they are all on the verge of scratching each other’s eyes out oft by not saying a thing but by judgmental looks, silent pauses and evil eyes. The tensions can be cut with a knife.

When the professor surprises them with an unexpected visit with his wife Ruth (Melanie Lora), a stranger to all those in Teddy's London world, the you know what hit’s the fan… slowly, methodically and least expectedly, Ruth shows her true colors. Color her the quiet aggressor. 

Since the living conditions in the household are toxic to say the least, a condition that they are all used to living with, they are all suspect of Teddy's 'wife', at first calling her a 'tart'.  

Richard Baird

And while some will say that Ruth brought out the very worst in Pinter’s characters, I must admit no one person could have all that power. Even though the play was written about fifty years ago, his characters were no good from the get-go. The play is so very  mysogonistic, that as absurd the proposition they concoct for her, being their whore to support them while she pulls the power play that has them all on their collective knees, doesn’t make it the more palpable. 

Melanie Lora

Separating the wheat from the chaff, one couldn’t ask for a more formattable cast than the one Ellenstein assembled for this production. The fact that Frank Corrado came out of a five year hiatus from acting says volumes of the man who directed Baird in “Betrayal”. We cannot say enough about Baird’s spot on menacing Lenny and so many others of that ilk in his acting career that he seems to take joy in it. It seems he outdoes himself each time. 

Frank Corrado and James Newcomb

Bruce Turk and James Newcomb have appeared at NCR on many occasions and both give performances from either end of the spectrum. Newcomb’s Sam, the weaker of the two with Turk (“Ben Butler) as the emotionless professor. Justin Gordon’s gruffness is oft times sadly funny and last but not least, Melanie Lora, making her NCR debut, is a find as the focus of the not so damsel in destress as much the master of her fate as the future unfolds in front of her eyes without so much as a smirk or recoil, but a telling satisfaction. Great work. 

Matt Novotny does wonders with the lighting design and Aaron Rumley’s sound design is spot on. 

North Coast Rep. with director David Ellenstein and his super cast in the mix, have definitely hit their stride. 

Make sure you leave any ideas of reality at the door as you enter the theatre. 

Dates: Through March 27th

Organization: North Coast Repertory Theatre

Phone: 858-481-1055

Production Type: Farce

Where: 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Ste. D, Solana Beach CA. 92075

Ticket Prices: $54-$65 (for mature audiences only)

Phone: 858-481-1055


Photo: Aaron Rumley

Check Covid protocols before you arrive. Masks and ID were required on opening night. 


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