TIO New England: Barlow in “The Homecoming”

TIO New England: Barlow in “The Homecoming”

A revival of Harold Pinter’s “The Homecoming” at the Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Theatre, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, features sometimes Telluride local David Barlow. Production runs through Saturday, October 25. Purchase tickets here.

(l to r) Rocco Sisto, Tara Franklin, David Barlow and Joey Collins. Photo by Michelle McGrady.

(l to r) Rocco Sisto, Tara Franklin, David Barlow and Joey Collins. Photo by Michelle McGrady.

“The Homecoming.” It’s a power play – or rather, a play about power. Under director Eric Hill’s spare but firm hand, the Berkshire Theatre Group’s revival is taut and gritty.

The production flies.

Which brings me to my unconventional spin on the plot.

The iconic playwright Harold Pinter and author J.M. Barrie certainly do not rhyme – but was Pinter intentionally playing with Pan in his scabrous account of family warfare?

Parallels between the two masterpieces are unmistakeable.

Wendy is Ruth (a luminous Tara Franklin, who bears a striking resemblance to a young Elizabeth Taylor in “Butterfield 8”).

The crocodile is brother Lenny (a delightfully slimy Joey Collins), a vicious predator-pimp-sometimes real killer.

The Captain Hook stand-in is dear old dad, Max, a child molester (perhaps) and butcher in every sense of the word, tamed (but anything but tame) by the shape-shifting, powerhouse of an actor Rocco Sisto.

Max preys on The Lost Boys, his sons – the aforementioned Lenny; would-be prizefighter Joey, the young innocent of the clan (and very likely not Max’s offspring), performed to brooding perfection by Rylan Morsbach.

Then there was Max’s no-account, sad sack of a chauffeur brother Sam, John Rothman, the only member in the otherwise pitch-perfect ensemble who, in my opinion, is a bit off-pitch. Going way over the top, Rothman plays Sam as an escapee from the cast of the oh-so-gay “La Cage aux Folles.”

The prodigal son is Teddy, David Barlow, a wound-as-tight-as-a-drum professor of philosophy in America who returns home to introduce the clan to his wife Ruth. And she turns out to have a few dark secrets of her own.

David Barlow

David Barlow

In the talk-back after the performance one of the other actors said the role of Teddy is the toughest to nail because Pinter gives that character the fewest lines to communicate. And despite the enforced silence and the many pock-marked pauses, Barlow easily manages to find the character-defining noise through expression and gesture – and few words. The face Teddy wears to meet the faces that he meets (apologies to T.S. Eliot) conceals a primal darkness that now and then pops to the surface with a wrenching gut punch.

Barlow’s Teddy is the stand-in for the head of the Darling family. He embodies the establishment, warts and all. (In Pan, that’s what the kids escape when they fly away to Neverland with Peter.)

In “The Homecoming,” Neverland is the squalid digs where power plays are the favorite sport du jour. When Wendy/Ruth shows up – it is her homecoming – she rocks their soiled, claustrophobic world. But what these lost boys want from Ruth is not someone to darn their socks or cook their dinner. What they want is something that comes all too naturally to this latter-day siren and nymph.

To seal the deal, Pinter even throws a ticking clock into the mix, Lenny-the-croc’s nemesis.

Here’s a linear, straight up description of the production from the Berkshire Group:

“Philosophy teacher, Teddy, played by David Barlow (Off-Broadway: Oroonoko, Andorra) brings his wife of six years, Ruth, played by Tara Franklin (BTG: Lion in Winter, Equus), to his childhood home in North London to meet his family after a long estrangement. Without warning of their visit, Teddy and Ruth are greeted by Teddy’s domineering family; Teddy’s aggressive father, Max, played by Rocco Sisto (Broadway: Amadeus, A Month In The Country) Max’s younger, incompetent brother, Sam, played by John Rothman (Broadway: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Relatively Speaking), and Teddy’s two brothers—Joey, played by Rylan Morsbach (BTG: Mary Poppins, A Christmas Carol) an aspiring boxer and Lenny, played by Joey Collins (Broadway: The Glass Menagerie, Rock n’ Roll) an amateur hustler. Teddy and Ruth’s homecoming instigates a power struggle for the ages, and family ties begin to unravel.”

“We are lucky to have an array of incredible artists involved with this production, including David Barlow, Joey Collins, Tara Franklin, Rylan Morsbach, John Rothman, Rocco Sisto, and Eric Hill directing. Harold Pinter is a great playwright, and this piece should be seen by all serious devotees of theatre,” says Kate Maguire, Berkshire Theatre Group’s Artistic Director/CEO

“The layering of themes in The Homecoming is a very important part of Pinter’s art, which include the games that get played [by the characters] in the course of this play— language games, emotional games—but primarily, the game of territorialism. Pinter’s intention is to reveal the state of the culture in which he lived, and the state of things in England in post World War II,”  says Hill, whose first good choice was his quite obviously his casting.

With this fine group of actors, he could mostly get out of the way and let them soar.

Sprinkle some fairy dust over your head and go.


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