"There are very warm people in this family. They're not ogres," says the character of Teddy in Harold Pinter's "The Homecoming." As warm as a raging fire, it turns out, a family for the casebooks. By the end of the play, which is the current offering of the Spheres Theatre, the social contract has been completely abused: Teddy's wife has arranged to stay on as a prostitute, servicing -- in addition to paying customers -- her husband's two brothers and their father.

It takes 2 1/2 hours to get to this strange conclusion, while the father alternately snarls and attacks everyone near him in the most brutal terms, and the members of his family respond in kind. As usual with Pinter, the mundane is recited at length, filled with pauses and expressions that create an overlay of ambiguity and suspense.

The calculated intrigue of Pinter appeals to a particular taste; others may ask with impatience, why can't he just say what he means? Although this production is quite tidily directed by Brian Hemmingsen, it does not conquer the sense of frustration caused by too many unanswered questions. It is hampered by a skimpy set, a one-dimensional performance by Richard Mancini as the father, Max, and a mix of British accents. Barbara Klein is lovely and mysterious as the opaque Ruth, and Bill Hollingsworth is convincing as the slightly dimwitted brother Joey.

The show plays through Sunday at the Washington Project for the Arts, 404 7th St. NW.