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Posted at 1:30 PM ET, 02/ 6/2011

Much to admire in director Irene Lewis's 'The Homecoming'

By Nelson Pressley

Last call: Irene Lewis is in her final season after 20 years as artistic director of Baltimore's Center Stage (she was informed last spring that her contract would not be renewed after the 2010-11 season, despite the fact that she was running a healthy institution), and her last show as a director is now playing.

It's Harold Pinter's "The Homecoming," and to judge by the uncomfortable laughter rippling through the Pearlstone Theater, this landmark 1964 drama of a family clawing one of its own apart is hitting its perverse mark. The shock value is intact as mild-mannered Teddy - a U.S.-based philosophy professor - totes his lovely wife back home to meet his seedy family in North London, where she is thoroughly absorbed by the rough masculine household.

There's much to admire in Lewis's work, as usual; the grubby d├ęcor of Riccardo Hernandez's boxy living room is characteristically striking, and the vast scale elevates the domestic warfare to mythic scale.

The acting, though, is worth special notice. Jarlath Conroy delivers a wonderfully skuzzy performance as the vainglorious, opportunistic patriarch, setting an attacking tone with the snarling barbs the old man lobs at his brother (Laurence O'Dwyer) and two sons (Trent Dawson and Sebastian Naskaris).

Felicity Jones, meanwhile, delivers a big cool helping of savoir faire as Ruth, the femme fatale who gives better than she gets from these wolves. Jones's Ruth is sophisticated and deeply creepy, while Steven Epp is splendid as Ruth's helpless intellectual husband. You can feel the power shifting back and forth as Lewis's group fills the famous Pinter pauses with steady glares. There's absolutely no fidgeting: it's a tense, taut, rigorous performance - a vintage Lewis show.

By Nelson Pressley  | February 6, 2011; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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