The play is mean, funny, dark, disturbing, and mysterious. It sabotages the family by recognizing it as the perfect unit for delivery of pain and humiliation, the perfect power field on which to destroy or infantilize one’s opponents (who are all the other family members). In early Pinter, say up through 1965 when The Homecoming was first performed in London, the turf war reigns supreme. Here we have a large home in unfashionable North London, inhabited by four men:
Max (brilliant played by McShane), the aging aggressive patriarch; his weaker brother Sam, the chauffer; and Max’s sons, Lenny (in a stinging rendition by Raul Esparza), the procurer; and Joey the slow witted, would-be boxer. Into this all-male environment walks Beth (given a bravura performance by Ms. Best) and her husband Teddy (the oldest son who has been in America teaching philosophy for years) for a surprise “homecoming.” In Pinter such a visit is hardly a pretty prospect.
With the inclusion of a woman in their midst, all hell slowly breaks out in the home. The action involves a kind of mating dance performed by the various male characters when provoked by Ruth, who turns out to be rather ruth-less. Set designer Eugene Lee has created a large, mostly open room, without a lot of distracting stuff, as the playing field for this heated competition. Brief bouts of violence and sexual play tumble through the conventional room.
The only other female character is the long-dead mother, Jesse, who is spoken of a number of times during the play by various characters, in that wonderfully complicated Pinter way in which the “truth,” whatever that is, is always floating just out of reach. Jesse is both “the backbone of the family” and “a slut-bitch of a wife,” as described by her husband Max. If Jesse was in fact the slut she would appear to have been (after Sam admits late in the play that he once drove her around in his car accompanied by close family friend Mac, with whom she