Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Rocco Sisto (the stalwart, exceptional actor oftentimes seen in the Berkshires) dominates through height, voice, and presence. He plays Max, an older man who is a bitter patriarch of the family. He immediately grapples with his middle son Lenny (Joey Collins), who is, bluntly, a pimp. Lenny and Max resent if not loathe one another. They agree about nothing. Max puts Lenny down and Lenny belittles everyone, or so it seems. Younger son Joey (Rylan Morsbach) is intent upon becoming a boxer. By day, his low-level occupation: demolition. Teddy (David Barlow) is the oldest brother and he has been living in America for a number of years where he has become a university philosophy professor. He sort of secretly married Ruth (Tara Franklin) in London and the two moved away, had three children, and now return. This is the first time anyone in the family learns that Teddy is a husband and father. The reunion is neither smooth nor successful. Also on the scene is Max's brother Sam (John Rothman), a chauffeur.
Designer Reid Thompson appropriately provides a shabby home including well-worn couch and chairs, and barely plastered walls. It lacks warmth and Solomon Weisbard's lighting is, for the most part, dim. The costuming, by David Murin, is period perfect: a highlight is the dress, with horizontal orange strips, that Ruth wears for the second act.
The second portion of the presentation begins as the men smoke cigars. As the play continues, we learn that Ruth and Teddy's marriage has been less than ideal and that she, too, has a past. She initiates a deep kiss with Lenny while dancing with him. Then she moves to the sofa for a sensual tangle with Joey, who has said, "She's wide open," even as she is fully clothed. Later, Joey and Ruth go upstairs and are unseen. When Joey comes back, he tells all that they did not go "all the way," even though they spent two hours ... By now, Ruth has become the catalytic center of the play. Max suggests that "maybe we should keep her," referring to Ruth. She could, he feels, make a living as a prostitute. Ruth notes that she would need "three rooms and a bathroom." Teddy is going to return to his home and Ruth rejects that life, saying to him, "Don't be a stranger."
The cast, uniformly, is superb. Joey Collins as Lenny is seedy, uninviting, a person to be avoided. Sisto's Max is sometimes malevolent, occasionally caring, and is massively contradictory. The actor, with the context of a metaphorically violent household, is a threatening figure, a troubled man who can and will explode. The play is tension-filled but does, after intermission, include room for dark comedy.
Tara Franklin's revelatory performance as a gorgeous, icy, sexual woman is award worthy. Pinter writes her character as one who has the ability to control. Franklin's every move is a knowing one. At an early moment, she is motionlesssave her eyes, which track the goings-on around her. The truth is, during the early 1960s, she is a faculty wife in America who also tends to three children. When she is brought to the current household, she is able to hold these men wherever and whenever she pleases. She knows that she could "take" any of them. When Teddy is about to leave the premises, she lets him go ...
Tara Franklin actualizes Eric Hill's directive intent. She has been an actor for him in other productions at Berkshire Theatre Group and, I believe, worked with him at Connecticut Repertory Theatre. Hill's training demands that an actor be physically and mentally disciplined. Franklin's current realization of Ruth demonstrates great expertise. Hill, also a highly skilled performer, coaches Franklin, and her control of character is inspiring.
The Homecoming continues at the Unicorn Theatre and Berkshire Theatre Group in Stockbridge, Massachusetts through October 25th, 2015. For tickets, call (413) 997-4444 or visit www.berkshiretheatregroup.org.