Hom­ing in on Pin­ter

Los Angeles Times - - POP & HISS - By F. Kath­leen Fo­ley cal­en­dar@latimes.com

The pith of Harold Pin­ter is in the sub­text. In­nocu­ous in­ter­changes — about a pil­fered cheese roll, a tick­ing clock, a piece of fried bread — take on lay­ers of mean­ing and men­ace that tran­scend the in­fra­struc­ture of text.

That is, given the right com­bi­na­tion of di­rec­tor and ac­tors. To­gether, they must dig in and do their home­work in or­der to in­ter­pret this most chal­leng­ing and re­ward­ing of play­wrights.

The stars cer­tainly align in Pa­cific Res­i­dent Theatre’s cur­rent pro­duc­tion of Pin­ter’s “The Home­com­ing” — an op­ti­mum ef­fort from all in­volved.

The ac­tion is set in a work­ing-class English house­hold in 1965, be­fore the ad­vent of the met­ro­sex­ual male, for whom cook­ing and house­keep­ing hold no ter­rors. And, in­deed, Nor­man Scott’s grim­ily claus­tro­pho­bic set, with its grubby Char­lotte Perkins Gil­man wall­pa­per, is a distinc­tively mas­cu­line mi­lieu, un­touched by a fe­male hand for many years.

The rul­ing rooster of this grubby roost — or so he would like to think — is Max (Jude Cic­colella). Max is the vi­ciously iras­ci­ble pa­tri­arch of a thor­oughly un­sa­vory clan, which in­cludes Max’s un­mar­ried and pos­si­bly ho­mo­sex­ual brother, Sam (An- thony Foux), and Max’s sons, punch-drunk as­pir­ing boxer Joey (Steve Spiro) and schem­ing Lenny (Jason Downs).

A sur­prise visit of eldest son Teddy (Trent Daw­son), a phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor now liv­ing in Amer­ica, and his icily at­trac­tive wife, Ruth (Lesley Fera), vi­o­lently up­ends the bal­ance of this wom­an­less house­hold. Ruth quickly be­comes the cyno­sure of de­sire — and loathing — for her in-laws, whose atavis­tic long­ing takes bizarre twists.

Di­rec­tor Guillermo Cien­fue­gos elic­its mul­ti­lay­ered per­for­mances from his ex­cel­lent ac­tors, who, un­der his inspired tute­lage, dig deep for their subter­ranean mo­ti­va­tions.

The dap­per Downs and the re­served Fera are par­tic­u­larly chill­ing stand­outs. Fera has the stone-faced qual­ity of a carved Madonna, but her Ruth con­ceals depths of blithe deprav­ity, while Downs’ Lenny has the creepy imp­ish­ness of a grown-up Peter Pan poised on the brink of may­hem.

Ash­ley Boxler Pacif ic Res­i­dent Theatre

TRENT DAW­SON, left, Steve Spiro, Lesley Fera and Jason Downs in Harold Pin­ter’s “Home­com­ing.”

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