REVIEW OF AN EVENING OF HAROLD PINTER
By Harold Pinter
Directed by Ron Nash
Produced by Gary Gonser
Marin Onstage
For tickets / schedule :
marinonstage.org
Belrose Theatre, San Rafael

RUN: November 6-21, 2015
RATING: Landscape 4 of 5 stars, The Dumb Waiter 3 of 5 stars

(November 7, 2015)

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Accoladed English playwright Harold Pinter was prolific and beloved from the 1940s until passing away in 2008. Landscape was broadcast on the radio in 1968 and performed on stage a year later. The Dumb Waiter was an earlier play, premiering abroad in 1959 and later brought to London. Pinter was a master of creating a play that is both concrete and abstract simultaneously, open to multiple interpretations. Directing his works is a challenge, and ultimately a personal journey for the director to choose what to emphasize. The audience is an active participant, absorbing what resonates to them. Like attending a Mondrian exhibition, each viewer will have their own interpretation of meaning.

It is a treat to be able to experience these plays, and Marin Onstage put a great deal of effort into their portrayal. Landscape is a series of interwoven monologues, with strong water symbolism of the pond, sea, and distilling recurring throughout. Beth and Duff’s relationship is cut off from each other, they are unwilling to learn about the other beyond a superficial level. Duff (Kit Grimm) craves intimacy, but is not willing to listen to her in order to attain it. His performance captures the mannerisms of the character, and rather than attempt an accent, he gives a more natural performance that works well, and is quite engaging. Beth (Esther Mulligan) reflects on the softness of romance, but does not explain what she wants to her partner. Esther Mulligan’s accent was quite good, and felt realistic, but her eyes were used in rather an exaggerated manner that felt odd in so small a theatre.

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The Dumb Waiter features two thugs waiting for a job to begin. They are worn down by their chosen occupation and sick of each other’s company, rather like a darker version of the gangsters from Kiss Me Kate. I was impressed by how much of the play was in silence using pure physicality. The opening bit by Gus (Michael Walraven) with his shoe and Ben (GreyWolf) reacting was priceless. Friendships often degrade into these sorts of relationships, where one side is overly outgoing and blissfully unaware of the other’s irritation until it bursts out. In a way, it is a parallel to Landscape, since both duos lack communication. It does not matter whether or not the two parties are actively speaking to each other, what matters is whether they are considering the needs of the other and truly listening. The Dumb Waiter is amusing and thought provoking, but was brought down by attempted accents. Most Americans cannot manage it properly. The constant drop in and out and wild shifts between geographic areas of the UK was intensely distracting. The play would have benefited from dropping the accents altogether and simply giving a genuine performance in natural voice patterns, letting the characters speak for themselves. It was rather jarring in its current state, despite excellent acting overall and a solid play to work with.

Despite problems with the accents, the production is well done, and Landscape is a moving one act exploration of relationships that is worth attending for. It’s melancholy is reversed by the dark frivolity of The Dumb Waiter.