A Testosterone Fueled Piece with a Surprise Jab of Estrogen

The Homecoming is a True Rabbit Hole About Power 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Cast of The Homecoing: Melanie Lora, Bruce Turk, Frank Corrado, Justin Gordon, Richard Baird & James Newcomb photo by Aaron Rumley

There is apparently a British trend happening in the San Diego theatres now by presenting pieces crafted between the sixties and the seventies where living rooms are full of people, drama, and very dark humor. Like I mentioned in the blogview for Renaissance Theatre's Abigail's Party, sometimes British humor is tough for us westerners. 

North Coast Rep's latest production The Homecoming, a play by Harold Pinter takes place in an old house north of London. Max (Frank Corrado) is in his living room arguing with his son Lenny (Richard Baird), feeling like a quasi situation comedy at that point, Sam (James Newcomb) Max's brother arrives home from work. He is a highly requested private chauffeur and is proud of it. Soon after another of Max's sons arrives, seems he is the baby of the house, Joey (Justin Gordon) who works in demolition but his real passion is to become a professional boxer. Even though he trains daily, it seems he is not good at it. Lenny's occupation is undisclosed but he throws subtle references that hint he is a pimp. In the middle of the night while everyone is asleep, the third son Teddy (Bruce Turk), arrives to surprise the family. A philosophy professor who's lived in The States for nine years is married to Ruth (Melanie Lora) and they have three kids. Ruth is also British and married Teddy in London before moving to the U.S. While Teddy is figuring out the sleeping arrangements and looking for sheets, Ruth goes out for a night walk and when she comes back finds Lenny. There is a tense and sexually charged exchange of words and audiences start to see some of Ruth's colors. The next day when Max comes down to the living room and sees Ruth, he insists she is a prostitute. After that, practically all the actors exchange words onstage regarding family claims and old glories. Teddy has had his family dose and decides it's time to go back home but Ruth is adamant. Lenny takes advantage of the moment and asks ruth to dance and then they start kissing followed by Lenny fully making out with her in the living room to a point where they rollover from the couch to the floor. At this stage, half of the audience masks have come off in shock. Lenny suggests Ruth stay and "pull her weight" in the house. Max after seeing all the action wants in too and regarding Sam, we see no particular desire in that direction as his brother has hinted the whole play he is gay but, I think he is the only sane one and that is why. Teddy agrees and leaves. Ruth after stating her demands of a condo and a maid stays to live with the inlaws.
The Homecoming: Bruce Turk, James Newcomb, Richard Baird & Frank Corrado  photo by Aaron Rumley

The two hours and change play has an active pace and will keep audiences scratching their head asking if they missed anything because it is a true rabbit hole about power. There is a lot of symbolism about masculinity and again, about power throughout the plot with a cigar-smoking, leg turning, and cane throwing. Richard Baird is such a master with that deep voice and stare, of course, he would play the pimp role! I have yet to experience a performance of his that I dislike. Elisa Benzoni's costume design is impressive and detailed. Richard Baird's wardrobe is the one that shows off the most, I assume because of Lenny's line of work all the way to the pinky ring. Bruce Turk as Teddy is pretty up there as well in his interpretation with subtle moves and glances all wrapped up in a face full of cynicism. Melanie Lora in that sea of testosterone is too, a strong performer embodying Ruth which is clearly not easy. As I mentioned, that Sam is the only one with some sanity in that mix, James Newcomb adds a dash of comedy that at times relieves the tension. Frank Corrado as the patriarch and Justin Gordon as the youngest sibling, accentuate the piece with strong tones of anger and frustration and also fuel the trail of sexual innuendos.

The Homecoming - Richard Baird, Melanie Lora & Frank Corrado - photo by Aaron Rumley
The Homecoming
 indeed is a tough bone to chew, written over 50 years ago and still relevant touching upon the power dynamics between men and women, the oh so ever classic mansplaining, and how it would seem easy to control a woman and tell her what to do for the better or advantage of the men. It would seem in the beginning that Harold Pinter is underestimating Ruth when really, the play is about her and her ability to navigate successfully through all those props.

The design team also includes Burnett (Resident Scenic Designer), Matthew Novotny (Lighting),
Philip Korth (Props), and Victoria Hanlin (Dialect Coach). Christopher M. Williams is the Rehearsal
Stage Manager and Aaron Rumley the Performance Stage Manager.

Currently playing until March 27. For tickets and performance times please click here

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