By Joseph Hurley
THE HOMECOMING. Harold Pinter Festival. Gate Theatre Dublin at Lincoln Center Festival 2001 (July 10-29).
This year, the sold-out Lincoln Center Festival 2001 concluded on Sunday evening.
The Gate contributed four plays to a nine-play Harold Pinter schedule.
The Pinter Festival was very much a creature of the Gate, and of artistic director Michael Colgan, who has overseen two Pinter Festivals, the first in May 1994, and then in April, 1997.
The Gate chief who, for the purposes of his Lincoln Center Festival 2001 duties, had opted for a simple "curated by" program credit, will have to face a heavily curtailed budget given the theater by the Irish Arts Council.
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Depressingly, the energetic Colgan will soon be confronting some serious financial issues – the biggest theater problems tend to be financial.
Surely the Gate’s triumphs beyond Ireland’s borders, not least the Lincoln Center Pinter Festival and the Beckett series, cannot but impress the Arts Council.
When Colgan goes home with a sheaf of overwhelmingly positive and resoundingly encouraging newspaper notices for the Pinter plays, even his enemies will have no option.
For Lefevre, Ian Holm was Max, the control freak father of a particularly poisonous North London household. It is an all-male domain made up of the churlish pater familias, his three sons, and Sam, his brother, a doomed London chauffeur, played by John Kavanagh.
"All male" until Teddy returns to England from America, bringing Ruth, a mysterious wife.
Not for nothing has Pinter chosen the name of the Bible’s most loyal wife for his "Homecoming" heroine.
Pinter’s masterpiece has often been said to have links to Shakespeare’s "King Lear:" Max is a sort of monarch, accustomed to exercising unquestioned authority.
Like Lear, Max has a trio of offspring: Lenny, the would-be entrepreneur; Joey, the youngest, a none-too-bright prizefighter, and the returned Teddy.
Any of them may possess the power to overthrow Max, whose strength is fairly clearly waning. But what gives "The Homecoming" its edge is the enigmatic presence of Ruth.
In Lefevre’s relentless production, Lia Williams gives a daring, bizarre performance in which she uses a throaty, wholly unrealistic voice, that somehow worked completely here, adding an immeasurable chill to the stage air.
As the ambitious Lenny, a role played in the original production by Ian Holm, Ian Hart contributes a credible sense of menace.
The Irish-born Jason O’Mara brings the precisely right blend of menace and distraction to the part of Joey, the tyro fighter, while Nick Dunning’s Teddy is the production’s white lab mouse, featureless almost to the point of anonymity, despite his leading man good looks. This keeps him from disappearing into the battered flat’s crumbling woodwork, as can easily happen with this particular role.
The diminutive Holm was giving an invaluable acting lesson on the stage of the John Jay College Theater. The pity is that the actor and his sterling colleagues were here so short a time as participants in Lincoln Center Festival 2001, a comment which could easily be applied to just about every production in the Harold Pinter Festival.
"The Homecoming," it appears, may be headed for a run in one or another of London’s commercial theaters. New York should be so lucky.