Monday, February 08, 2010

Pinter, again. (more thoughts).

It struck me early on in Ashes to Ashes that one thing Pinter understands more than anyone is how people know each other so well, as siblings (in Moonlight and, in a way, in A Kind of Alaska) or friends, lovers and spouses (Betrayal and Ashes to Ashes, and Moonlight as well). You know the other person's weak points, what gets under their skin, how to hit them where it will hurt most. That is the uncomfortable part of watching his plays, catching people when their defenses are down, when their innermost feelings and thoughts are dragged out, laid bare. There's something real happening on stage, something you see in yourself or in others, things you have done to people you love or that they have done to you. That kind of savage honesty became clear to me with the first time I saw Pinter onstage, in a 1995 production of Betrayal, and has stayed with me ever since.

After yesterday's performance of A Kind of Alaska and Ashes to Ashes the director, Victor Pappas, made a comment about the evolution of regional theater, beginning as a repertory of actors and growing into something quite different. After 18 years of theater-going in Seattle I've come to think of the local theater scene as almost a repertory of local actors, some of whom have been fighting the good fight in the name of art for more than twenty or thirty years. What then develops between these wonderful actors is an intimacy, a rapport, an emotional chemistry that communicates itself in a level of trust onstage that could never happen in three weeks of rehearsals between perfect strangers. The kind of brutally emotional honesty that Pinter demands needs that kind of trust, that tenderness which keeps his lacerating truths from becoming unbearable. This is what I love most about Pinter, that clarity, that sharpness, just softened by a touch, a wry twist of the mouth that is almost a smile.

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