Pacific Resident Theatre, Marilyn Fox has got hold of the rights to 1965′s The Homecoming and handed the reins to producer Elspeth A. Weingarten and director Guillermo Cienfuegos, and that’s the exact right way to keep the name of Pinter on the lips of the people who should be saying “Pinter.” Like me.
Philosophy professor Teddy (Trent Dawson) brings his wife of six years and mother of his three boys Ruth (Lesley Fera) home to meet his estranged blue-collar family: father Max (Jude Ciccolella) was a butcher, uncle Sam (Anthony Foux) is a chauffeur, and brothers Lenny (Jason Downs) and Joey (Steve Spiro) are a violent pimp and a rapist boxer. Before the happy couple gets to the old homestead, we see a snakes’ nest boiling over with potential hospitality. But the worst thing that happens when they arrive may be the very opposite of the horror you’d expect. Because real shocks, like laughs, come from surprise, you will find more of both here than in some entertainments billing themselves as horrorshows or comedies. If the subversive language doesn’t get you, the subversive themes and storyline will. If you haven’t read it since college, don’t. Just come to Venice right away. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Jude Ciccolella (in chair) and Jason Downs in Pacific Resident Theatre’s THE HOMECOMING.Cienfuegos uses Norman Scott’s clean, spare living-room boxing-ring of a set and coy, just-enough-to-see lighting to arrange bodies for declamation, intimidation, obfuscation, revelation. It’s almost as fine a play to watch as to listen to, but given the director’s excellent casting and work with actors (and of course the vivid script) it’s about the words, really, as it should be.
Or is it. It’s a very physical play, and those aforementioned bodies do much of Pinter’s work here, particularly Fera’s coolly dominant legs and eyes; then of course Ciccolella’s adamant fists and belly, and the quiet impudence of Foux’s understated exclamation point of a frame…not to mention Spiro’s reticent, hulking shoulders, Dawson’s stick-up-the-arse spine, and Downs’ entire insidious presence, which oozes and thumps and creaks: whatever’s worst, whatever’s needed. The whole show is like this, Pinter and Cienfuegos within the boundaries of their own hideous rules using whatever tactic will work to win.
And it does win. This is a show that defeats its audience, taking from you what you think is your philosophical position and pretzel-crushing it and handing it back to you in such a form that you drop it in disgust, and when it scurries and mewls you stomp on it and admit defeat in a voice breaking with anxiety at the very thought you ever had such ideas. And what, really, is theater for but that? The musical that doesn’t do that, the children’s show that doesn’t do that, the improv-games or sketch-comedy evening that doesn’t change your mind about something you were sure of: what is it for?