Arts & Theater

Theater review: Capital Stage produces a gripping, elegant ‘Homecoming’

From left, Julian Lopez-Morillas, Brian Harrower, Melinda Parrett and Ryan Snyder perform Harold Pinter’s “The Homecoming” at Capital Stage.
From left, Julian Lopez-Morillas, Brian Harrower, Melinda Parrett and Ryan Snyder perform Harold Pinter’s “The Homecoming” at Capital Stage. Courtesy of Capital Stage

The new Capital Stage production of Harold Pinter’s “The Homecoming” will make you fall in love with theater all over again. The 1967 Tony-winning play has become a influential classic of tone and subtext that receives a gripping yet elegant rendering here under director Janis Stevens’ masterful hand. From the snarling opening moments to the breathtaking final blackout, the intimate production punches the gut.

Time has not blunted the edges of Pinter’s dialogue, which is either harshly direct and severe or loaded with secondary meanings. “This is a beat. This is a pause. This is a silence,” Pinter once said emphasizing the difference in each effect. Getting those moments right are as important as the words in the playwright’s work, and the director and actors in this production understand and execute this as well as any presentation of Pinter I’ve seen.

Set in a North London working-class house, “The Homecoming” showcases primary themes of Pinter’s early work: the underlying fragility of male bonds and rituals, the subtle power shifts and sexual energy created by the presence of attractive women in the company of men, and the fallibility of memory. The production neatly pulls together both the darkly comic strands and the poetic minimalism Pinter made so famous.

Legendary Bay Area veteran Julian López-Morillas as the gnarled Max sets the early tone in an exchange with the sleek and calm Ryan Snyder as his pimp son Lenny. Max rages against the world and Lenny, preoccupied with the racing form, imperiously ignores the old man except to brutally dismiss him. Snyder is perfect in his silent, effortless contempt and then in his comically offhand biting rebukes. Max turns his own contempt to his mousy brother, Sam (Joe Higgins), a chauffeur who has returned from a shift driving. Sam just takes the abuse from Max. It feels like a daily ritual that has an uneasy but established equilibrium. Only dull boxer son Joey (Brian Harrower) is exempt from the old man’s attacks.

Then oldest son Teddy (Christopher Vettel) returns to his childhood home unannounced. Teddy, who has become a philosophy professor in America, hasn’t seen his working-class family in six years. With him is his seemingly distant wife, Ruth (Melinda Parrett), whom the family has never met. While Ruth initially looks sexless in a tan overcoat and bland long gray skirt and blouse, there is an eroticism in all her exchanges with the family. The eroticism eventually becomes crude and coarse, and the power dynamic shifts dramatically and definitively.

Among the most effective elements of this meticulous production are the brilliantly coordinated and complementary set, lighting and costume designs by Ron Madonia, Paul Kreutz and Gail Russell.

Every member of the ensemble hits the mark, and director Stevens sets a enviable standard with this seamless, completely realized production.

Call The Bee’s Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120. Follow him on Twitter @marcuscrowder.

THE HOMECOMING

What: Capital Stage presents Harold Pinter’s 1967 Tony-winning drama. Janis Stevens directs with Julian López-Morillas, Melinda Parrett, Ryan Snyder, Joe Higgins, Brian Harrower and Christopher Vettel.

Where: Capital Stage, 2215 J St., Sacramento

When: Continues 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. through May 31.

Cost: $22-$40 tickets

Information: (916) 995-5464, www.capstage.org.

Time: 135 minutes with one intermission

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