“The Homecoming” At STLAS Brings A Whole New Meaning To “Pinterest”

Homecoming-Poster-303x454Maybe social media isn’t as new as we thought. “Pinterest” is described as a way of collecting things that interest you so they can be shared with others. Well, Harold Pinter defined “pinterest” perfectly in his 1964- long before social media- black comedy, “The Homecoming.” Now St. Louis Actors’ Studio gives us a polished and profound production to close out their current season collectively called “Sins of the Father.”

Max (Peter Mayer) is the head of the household which he shares with his two sons, Joey (Nathan Bush) and Lenny (Charlie Barron) and his brother Sam (Larry Dell). When the third son returns to his British home from America with a wife in tow, the reunion takes several twists and turns as we’re not exactly who is the feline and who is the rodent in this classic tale of cat and mouse.  In typical Pinter fashion, unabashed dialogue and unbelievable situations make this anything but a happy homecoming.

Mayer is perfectly explicit about his feelings for his sons, brother and the new women who comes into their lives. Sporting a sweat-stained t-shirt and commanding his “favorite” chair, he makes no bones about being the patriarch- and the boss- of this unruly household. With broad mood swings and a braggadocio like no other, Mayer nails it. Charlie Barron also turns in a magnificent performance as the cocky Lenny who, as it turns out in a perfect plot twist, owns what amounts to a brothel in an even sleazier part of town. His flirtations with the new wife are epic and then, suddenly, the tables get turned.

Nathan Bush is the classic younger brother who may be a few bricks shy of a load. As an aspiring boxer, it isn’t surprising that he isn’t the quickest to pick up on the situation when the story takes a turn to wife-sharing and prostitution. Bush is delightful as his drop-jaw expression becomes his best character trait. Larry Dell is obviously the milquetoast of the family as he is bossed around by Max all evening long. Despite being the self proclaimed “best chauffeur” in the city, he becomes the cowering sheep even though he tries to stand up to his brother on several occasions.

The gang's all here as St. Louis Actors' Studio presents Harold Pinter's "The Homecoming."

The gang’s all here as St. Louis Actors’ Studio presents Harold Pinter’s “The Homecoming.”

Ben Ritchie plays the successful brother, Teddy, who has become a Philosophy professor in the states. He’s the most enigmatic one in the piece as you’re never quite sure if he’s shocked or relieved when his wife, Ruth, shocks the rest of the family with her no-nonsense approach to the mass flirting and come-ons from this degenerate household. Which leads to even bigger surprises when she decides to join Lenny’s retinue of ladies of the evening. Ritchie is perfectly passive and you can’t get a real read on how he feels but he certainly seems to take rather quickly to the idea of her staying behind while he returns to his job across the pond. Holding her own in this “company of men” is Missy Heinemann as Ruth. Her opening salvo- so to speak- makes the audience gasp and then she continues to be the catnip for this home of horny tomcats. What a great performance and well-played.

Esteemed Artistic Director of STLAS, Milt Zoth almost makes this his swan song as he and his wife are heading to San Antonio later this year. He’ll be teaching in that town and don’t be surprised if he starts a new theatre company down South. He’ll be around for the LaBute Festival in July and then he’ll return to direct one more MainStage performance next year. His way around a script is clearly evident in his interpretation of “The Homecoming.” There are several ways to play it as there are so many ways the various characters can react to the bizarre situations Harold Pinter has created in this wonderful piece but Mr. Zoth has taken us on a most fascinating and shocking journey and one that ultimately satisfies.

Patrick Huber’s set design is evocative with cracking plaster and even the faded memories of three pictures on the back wall that have been covered by a not quite large enough mirror. The faded and somewhat dilapidated furniture fits perfectly as well. His lights also pinpoint the  proper feeling and the Carla Landis Evans costumes also show the contrast between the successful brother and his wife and the family left behind. Robin Weatherall’s sound design completes the punctuation on this exquisite production.

If you’re a fan of Harold Pinter (you know who you are), you can’t miss this one. And if you haven’t had the pleasure of his company yet, let “The Homecoming” be your perfect primer for the dark and disturbing world of one of the most renown playwrights ever to set characters to stage. Call St. Louis Actors’ Studio at 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org to order tickets or get more information. “The Homecoming” runs through June 8th.

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