Monday, October 13, 2014

The Homecoming—Imago Theatre—SE Portland

No Holds Barred

This black comedy by Harold Pinter is directed and designed by Jerry Mouawad (Imago’s Artistic Director and Co-Founder).  It is playing at their space at 17 SE 8th Ave. (just off Burnside) through November 9th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-731-9581.

You may balk when I call this play a “comedy” and contend there is nothing funny about it.  And you’d be right, if we were talking about “comedy” in the more common usage of the word.  But this is not your traditional, trivial, TV sit-com funny.  This is absurdist comedy, meaning nonsensical or ridiculous.  The style is not beholding to any sort of “normal” rules of storytelling, nor does Pinter, nor does this play.

Chekov also contended that his plays were comedies, being that they focused on the human condition and the struggle between class systems, which he found amusing.  This play is also a struggle…but a struggle between realities…a struggle for dominance…control…king-of-the-hill…top dog.  We all have stories and are part of each others’ stories.  But in these stories…these realities…these dreams/nightmares, who is the Creator/Controller?  In the world of The Homecoming, the map of the family’s landscape is continually being redrawn…reinvented…re-imagined.

On the surface, it is the story of family dynamics.  There is the retired grizzled old father, Max (Douglas Mitchell) and his three dutiful sons.  Lenny (Jacob Coleman), the eldest, a nattily-dressed, oily character, who owns some real estate.  Then, there is the passive, middle son, Teddy (Jeffrey Jason Gilpin), a well-to-do philosophy professor.  And finally, the baby of the brood, the not-too-bright, Joey (Jim Vadala), an aspiring boxer.

Add to this mix, Ruth (Anne Source), Teddy’s mysterious wife, and the prissy, Sam (Craig Rovere), Max’s brother, a Limo driver, who lives with them.  Teddy, who has been away for about six years and now has three boys, has decided to drop in for a few days on his infamous family.  This unexpected development upsets the balance of power and so now they all must jockey for new positions.  In turn, each of the family members of this rocky assemblage strut about and spout their positions in this new arrangement, giving and taking as needed to get the upper hand.

But there are some surprises for all of them, as one member claws to the top of the heap, giving way to a strange, new world.  I certainly can’t give away too much more, as an audience must discover, as the other characters in the show, the outcomes of these proceedings.  But, if you go expecting the traditional tale of a family misbehaving, you might be surprised, pleasantly, I hope.

Mouawad is probably the foremost and best interpreter of Pinter in this part of the country.  I have reviewed his The Lover and The Caretaker, and they both exceeded my expectations, as I am a fan of Pinter.  His set design (as well as lighting, Jeff Forbes, and sound, Ryan Mooney) is surreal, evoking memories of some the German, expressionist films of the 20’s and 30’s.  And his (and the cast’s) handling of the dialogue is key to appreciating Pinter. The pauses and pacing in his scripts are exacting and must be followed to get the true impact of his plays.  Mouawad delivers a package worthy, I’m sure, of even Pinter’s praise!

The cast is so uniformly in tune with each other and the script that it is hard to pick any one person out.  But I especially appreciated Coleman’s Lenny, as he stands alone in his portrayal of a really creepy individual.  And Source’s Ruth, excels in exposing the power a woman can have if she puts her mind to it.  But, as I said, an exceptional, ensemble cast.

I would recommend this show but it is definitely adult in nature.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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