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Lifelong Pinter enthusiast returns to the stage for North Coast Rep’s ‘Homecoming’

Richard Baird, left, and Frank Corrado in North Coast Repertory Theatre's "The Homecoming."
(Aaron Rumley)

After five-year break, Frank Corrado came back for a role he couldn’t resist

It’s been five years since Frank Corrado stepped onstage. But the veteran actor said North Coast Repertory Theatre’s David Ellenstein dangled a “carrot” in front of him that he couldn’t resist: the lead role in Harold Pinter’s “The Homecoming.”

Corrado will star as Max, the patriarch of the bizarrely dysfunctional London family in Pinter’s Tony-winning 1964 play, which Ellenstein is directing in a production opening Saturday, March 5 at the Solana Beach theater.

For more than 40 years, Corrado has worked in the theater industry as an actor, director, playwright and producer. He has performed in Greek classics, Shakespeare and contemporary plays, but the one constant in his life since boyhood has been a fascination with the works of Pinter, the famously irascible English playwright whose strange and absurdist plays include “Betrayal,” “The Caretaker” and, Corrado’s two favorites, “Old Times” and “No Man’s Land.”

After Pinter died in 2008, Corrado curated and produced a three-year series of readings of virtually all of Pinter’s plays at Seattle’s A Contemporary Theatre (ACT), followed in 2012 by a festival of full productions at ACT. Through that, Corrado developed friendships with two of Pinter’s closest friends, the late British actor Henry Woolf and Pinter’s surrogate son, stage director Harry Burton. Their insights deepened Corrado’s understanding of Pinter and his work.

“I think Pinter’s the greatest writer of characters since Shakespeare,” Corrado said. “For an actor, it’s juicy stuff to work on. It’s very unusual, requires all sorts of concentration and focus and technique, but also sensibility. To me it’s just a wonderful challenge.”

“The Homecoming” is set in the working-class London home that 70-year-old Max shares with his brother, Sam, and two of Max’s sons, Lenny and Joey. When his third son, Teddy, arrives with his wife, Ruth, for a visit from America, a shocking series of sexual and power struggles erupt in the all-male household.

Featured in the cast of “The Homecoming” are San Diego actors Richard Baird as Lenny and Bruce Turk as Teddy. Corrado and Turk first worked together more than 20 years ago, and Corrado directed Baird in North Coast Rep’s last Pinter production, “Betrayal,” in 2015.

Corrado said he’s never seen a live production of “The Homecoming” and up until rehearsals got under way at North Coast last month, he wasn’t sure it was one of Pinter’s best plays. But he has since changed his mind and he’s excited to get the show in front of audiences, though he admits the play “won’t be everyone’s bowl of borscht.”

“If you like theater and you like to laugh, if appalling behavior doesn’t automatically offend you ... if you like Pinter or have any sensibility toward modern British theater, I think you would like to see it,” Corrado said.

Although “The Homecoming” has been criticized as misogynistic, Ruth gets the upper hand over all the men in the play, controlling them emotionally, maternally and sexually. Corrado said the language and behavior can be shocking for Pinter newbies, but there’s also a great deal of outrageous humor in the script. He also says the situations in the play do happen in real families, though not usually all in the same household in the same week.

“The essence of theater is conflict and contention and debate and irony and ambivalence and ambiguity. All you have to do is read ‘Agamemnon.’ Nothing has changed,” Corrado said of the ancient Greek tragedy by Aeschylus. “We are a species of damaged goods. We have superior intelligence which makes it possible to develop superior ways of destroying each other and the planet. Even with all the glories of art and literature and architecture and all the good stuff that humans have created, they are the most predatory and dreadful of beings at the same time.”

‘The Homecoming’

When: Opens Saturday, March 5 and runs through March 27. Showtimes, 7 p.m. Wednesdays. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays. 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays.

Where: North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987D Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach

Tickets: $54-$65 (for mature audiences only)

Phone: (858) 481-1055

Online: northcoastrep.org


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