by Douglas Messerli
first American production: The Music Box / January 5, 1967
Harold Pinter The Homecoming (New York: Grove Press, 1967)
Harold Pinter The Homecoming, Cort Theatre /2007 / the production I saw was a matinee
of January 20, 2008
While in New York City in January 2008, I attended the revival of Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming at the Cort Theatre. Although I’d read the play upon its first publication in 1967, I’d never previously seen a production of the play, and I’d forgotten much of its dialogue.
At the center of this linguistic battleground is Lenny, brilliantly played by Raúl Esparza. If in last year’s Company he was given little to do as an actor, in this play he is at the center of the verbal fireworks, pushing and probing through language for each character’s weaknesses. While his brother teaches philosophy, but has a focus so narrow that almost any issue is outside his “province,” Lenny is ready to consider the major questions of Western thought such as “a certain logical incoherence in the central affirmations of Christian theism,” and the “business of being and not-being.”
…I’ve got a couple of friends of mine, we often sit around the Ritz Bar having a few liqueurs, and they’re always saying things like that, you know, things like: Take a table, take it. All right I say, take it, take a table, but once you’ve taken it, what you going to do with it? Once you’ve got hold of it, where are you going to take it?
When asked what a table is, Teddy can only respond, “A table.”
Look what I’m lumbered with. One cast-iron bunch of crap
after another. One flow of stinking pus after another.
Our father? I remember him. Don’t worry. You kid yourself. He used
to come over to me and look down at me. My old man did. He’d bend
right over me, then he’d pick me up. I was only that big. Then he’d
dandle me. Give me the bottle. Wipe me clean. Give me a smile. Pat
me on the bum. Pass me around, pass me from hand to hand. Toss me
up in the air. Catch me coming down. I remember my father.
Even the near mentally-retarded Joey is a philosopher of sorts; when Lenny discovers that after two hours in bed with Ruth, Joey has not gotten any “gravy,” he calls her a “tease,” to which Joey responds that a man can be “satisfied” without “going any hog,” recognizing the fact that sex is far more than ejaculation.
Los Angeles, February 3, 2008