(willamette week) Any troupe attempting this psychosexual parlor drama had better come correct. Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming is deceptively simple: Son Teddy brings bride Ruth home to meet the family, which is to say, he pushes his wife of six years into a North London all-male den of working-class grime and impotent posturing. The men of the house jockey for some vague position; small talk is laced with resentment and the threat of bodily harm. Ruth becomes a bit too familiar with her in-laws. But realizing Pinter’s dowdy-absurdist world requires the actors to live in uncomfortably long pauses that border on missed cues, and there’s a cadence to Pinter’s dialogue that’s hard to nail down: a kind of pidgin of non sequiturs, blunt insults, meaningless asides and sporadic rage that somehow meld into effective interaction. The cast at Defunkt is mostly up to the task, with Matthew Kern keeping to a tight sense of comedic timing in his role as Lenny. Grace Carter plays an alluring Ruth, but regrettably doesn’t do much to suggest that she has any motive aside from opportunism when she takes up with her brothers-in-law. All this plays out in a dusty bachelor pad that doubles as a decrepit shrine to a long-dead woman from another era. The cramped Back Door Theater forces the audience into uncomfortable intimacy with the dismal sitting room and its attendant bitterness, rage and erotic manipulation. It’s the perfect venue.

originally published Nov 11 2012

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