The Homecoming

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Through May 2. $30; 510-835-4205 or www.offbroadwaywest.org.
The Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (at Geary), S.F.

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In Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, we're confronted with the most unpleasant family reunion imaginable — and that's just the first act. The show concerns the long-absent Teddy (Yusef Lambert) who returns to the North London home of his youth, finding his father and two brothers reduced to various states of physical decay and sexual longing. Teddy brings his wife to meet the family, and before we get to intermission, she's already canoodling with her husband's predatory siblings. All of this action unfolds in Pinter's trademark style — a style that generates a steady thrum of melancholy and menace, punctuated by stabs of mordant humor. Viewers unfamiliar with Pinter will find Off Broadway West's new production of The Homecoming a good place to witness the playwright's style: The cast may be as uneven as their British accents, but the three roles that absolutely need to be strong — Graham Cowley's Max, Nick Russell's Lenny, and Sylvia Kratins' Ruth — are very strong indeed. When those three interact, Pinter's sly touch and deliberately off-kilter rhythms come through beautifully. Larger ensemble scenes, however, often fail to sustain a similar level of comic tension and dread, so hard-core Pinter fans might be better off sitting this one out.

 
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