Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Pinter's "Homecoming" Is Frankly Just Pinter

Cleveland Press October 27, 1967

The playwright who is very much "in" right now is Harold Pinter. Admiration for him verges on cultism.

It is a cult to which I do not belong.

Be that as it may, Pinter's most famous work, "The Homecoming," opened at the Hanna last night and the theatrically adventurous have a week in which to sample two hours of Pinterisms.

I am not quite sure what they will find. What they will not find, however, are plot, characterization, conventional form, or entertainment.

LIKE A WORK of abstract art Pinter's play is simply there, take it or leave it. And at intermission a few chose to leave it.

Pinter deals not with the presence of something but of its lack. In "The Homecoming" it is the lack of love, of compassion, of humanity.

Into this void comes sadism, cruelty and depravity but not fully developed enough to fill the void but just sparred with and probed.

The situation Pinter presents is the visit of an eldest son and his wife to his father's home in England. The son is a professor in America.

THE ENGLISH FAMILY consists of his shouting, noisy, domineering father; his two brothers -- one an unsuccessful boxer and the other a pimp -- and his mild, colorless uncle who is a chauffeur.

Once the formality of the meeting is over, the father and his two sons decide they would like to have this woman around the house for both convenience and pleasure.

The brothers embrace her and roll on the floor with her while the husband looks on without emotion. The family proposes that she remain as a common wife and that she earn her keep as a prostitute.

THE WIFE BARGAINS coldly indicating that she will dominate the household while her husband takes off for home and their three children. And that's it.

Now one thing of which Pinter is a master is mood. Aside from the overwhelming and obvious mood of depravity there also is one that suggests a dream.

Dialog shifts from words that are polite and predictable to lines that are cruel and shocking; suggestions that are quite ordinary to suggestions that are anything but ordinary.

Ever since "The Homecoming" opened in New York last winter and subsequently won both the Tony and the Critics Circle Awards (some other Tony, some other critics) there has been a profusion of articles written attempting to explain what "The Homecoming" is all about, to prove its hidden meanings. Even a psychiatrist has speculated on its psychological implications.

In interviews Pinter has refused to explain, has indicated that it means whatever it means to you, that what is happening on stage is what is happening and that's all.

ALL RIGHT. I'll buy that. And what is happening on stage might have interested me for 30 or 40 minutes but not for an entire evening.

A situation may be tasteless if it has meaning, or it could be meaningless if entertaining but to be both meaningless and tasteless is more than I can manage. As for the famous Pinter dialog -- this is something that becomes numbingly banal after a time.

"The Homecoming" was performed in New York by the Royal Shakespeare Company under director Peter Hall after a long period in England in which to polish and perfect the work. The production undoubtedly contributed to the awards.

That company has since been replaced by another and if the playing is different it is nevertheless good. The pauses are lessened and there is less of the tightly knit ensemble playing that marks the work of any good company that performs many works together.

There are strong individual portraits, however. Carolyn Jones as the wife maintains just a trace of a somnambulistic quality that provides an air of mystery. Otherwise she exudes an aura of latent sexuality.

William Roerick is a roaring father, mercurial, a trifle forced in the beginning. John Church as the procuring brother lends a feeling of menace to the proceedings.