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Playwright Uses Family As Metaphor ; Brit’s Show Talks About the Power of the U.K. Following WWII

September 8, 2008

By Aurelio Sanchez Journal Staff Writer

Nobel Prize-winning British playwright Harold Pinter is a master at taking common familial themes like power, love, hate and jealousy, and then metaphorically extending them to entire countries.

Take, for example, the love-hate relationship between Great Britain and America: England the reluctant progenitor and America the ungrateful progeny; England’s class-structured snobbery versus America’s mythical self-determination; England’s post-traumatic loss of an empire, America’s fixation on world superiority.

Pinter’s “The Homecoming” ostensibly examines the role of power, morals and family by focusing on one family and their struggle for influence and standing, and by extension, he examines the same on a grander national scale.

“What Pinter is really exploring is the idea of power, both the positive and the negative, and he chooses the most intimate, primal landscape to start his exploration, and that is the landscape of family,” said Laurie Thomas, who is directing FUSION Theatre Company’s season-opening play.

“I think it’s about Great Britain trying to find or regain its power after the decimating blows of World War II, and I think it’s about Britain trying to find its relationship with the U.S.

“It’s about this love-hate relationship and romance versus jealousy between our two countries,” she said.

Set in North London, the play features six members of the same extended family: patriarch Max, a retired butcher; brother Sam, a chauffeur; Max’s three sons, Teddy, an American philosophy professor; Lenny, a lowlife; and Joey, wannabee boxer and demolition man; and Ruth, Teddy’s wife and a volatile, unstable bombshell.

The trigger for demolition comes from Teddy and Ruth’s homecoming, culminating in a series of ensuing emotional explosions as the characters confront their real and imagined relationships.

“Pinter examines how the human being finds power and balance in relationships, and he does it with the sharpest sense of irony and humor,” Thomas said.

“The Homecoming” arrives in Albuquerque directly from a successful revival on Broadway. John Wylie is in the central role of Max, the father. The cast also features New Mexico professionals Bruce Holmes, Nick Lopez, Jacqueline Reid, Demetrio Vialpando and Rick Wiles.

Its 1967 Broadway opening won “The Homecoming” the Tony Award for Best Play; it was nominated earlier this year for another Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. In awarding him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005, the Swedish Academy cited Pinter for being “generally regarded as the foremost representative of British drama in the second half of the 20th century.”

Meanwhile, FUSION Theatre Company will celebrate the start of its 2008-2009 season with an opening night catered reception at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11, before the 8 p.m. curtain for “The Homecoming.”

Following “The Homecoming,” the season will continue with the opening of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” from Oct. 30-Nov. 23; Jez Butterworth’s “Parlour Song” from Feb. 12-March 8 and Sarah Ruh’s “Eurydice” from April 30-May 24.

Thomas described the new season as “miraculous, not only in the quality of the offerings, but in the themes that play out, the idea of miracles played out on a very human and spiritual plane.

“I’m extremely excited about the writing in all of these plays,” she said. “But I also feel very fortunate to be with one of the first theaters in New Mexico to have the opportunity to premiere some of these plays.”

If you go

WHAT: “The Homecoming”

WHEN: Opening night reception at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11, followed by curtain call at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday performances at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. through Sept. 28

WHERE: Cell Theatre, 700 First NW (just west of Broadway and south of Lomas) HOW MUCH: Tickets are $25 general admission, $20 students and seniors. Thursday performances (excluding opening night) feature a $10 student rush (with valid ID) and $18 actor rush (with professional resume). Sunday, Sept. 7 is pay-what-you-wish night. Group discounts also available. For tickets and information, call 766-9412 or go online to www.fusionabqorg

(c) 2008 Albuquerque Journal. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.