The Homecoming at Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company | Theater review

Geoff Button’s production of Pinter’s 1964 work suggests the play’s menacing potential but sports an uneven ensemble.

Photograph: Benjamin ChandlerVance Smith and Michaela Petro in Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company's The Homecoming

Two and a half decades after staging it in the company’s second season, Mary-Arrchie returns to The Homecoming. Pinter’s biting play about power and sexuality hasn’t lost any of its visceral spark since its 1964 debut. Button’s production proves the potential of staging this work but also illustrates the pitfalls that await any attempt at tackling this dense and vexing 20th-century playwright.

Volumes have been written regarding the how-tos of performing Pinter—how to convey meaning in the space between lines or reverse the power structure of a scene in a single word. It takes a spectacular cast to pull it off, and Mary-Arrchie has a promising but critically uneven ensemble on hand. Standing out strongly are Luke Hatton, a subtle Teddy, and Vance Smith, whose take on Lenny shows a keen understanding of the minutiae of menace that the role demands. Conversely, Richard Cotovsky doesn’t imbue Max with the charm or ill-concealed malice that could propel much of the action. It makes the violent ending of Act I seem insincere and muddles the complex parlay for dominance at the play’s close.

Amanda Sweger’s set is exactingly rendered, with antiquated furniture and jagged wallpaper framing a missing wall in the entryway. Each scene ends with a blinding flash of light and sound, recalling the close of an episode of Lost. It’s almost as if the knowledge that Pinter is supposed to be “intense” has short-circuited much of the brutality in the script—it ends up seeming forced.

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