Sunday, February 07, 2010

Pinter x 2.

I had been eagerly awaiting Shadow and Light Theatre's production of two one-act plays by Harold Pinter since I first heard about them a few months ago. Last summer there had been a series of readings of Pinter one-acts, and I was lucky to catch the last one, Moonlight. It brought together some of my favorite actors from the 18 years I have spent in Seattle theaters, and reminded me all over again of the starkly, emotionally devastating beauty of Pinter. It was the first time I had seen Pinter performed since Betrayal, at Intiman Theatre in 1995, which remains one of my most enduring theatrical experiences.

A Kind of Alaska and Ashes to Ashes brought together the director (Victor Pappas) and one of the actors (Frank Corrado) from that 1995 production of Betrayal, and added one of my most favorite actresses since the very first play I ever saw at ACT (Suzanne Bouchard), as well as Kimberly King, who played the title role in the play which was solely responsible for bringing me back to ACT after nearly a decade's absence (Becky's New Car, by Steven Dietz, 2008). Corrado, Pappas, and Bouchard are the three founders of Shadow and Light Theatre, a new company devoted to the works of Harold Pinter. The energy and passion of Mr. Corrado (the Pinter Fortnightly series was his creation) and Ms. Bouchard that was so apparent in the Moonlight reading last summer crystallized into two polished gems of plays, in the intimacy of ACT's smallest theater, the 92-seat Bullitt Cabaret.

Pinter is about memory; it is the common thread that twists through the four works I have seen so far. In Betrayal, it is about a friendship, a marriage, and an affair, unraveling backwards in time. Moonlight is about grief, jumping back and forth from past to present as its characters deal with a past loss and an impending one, the death of a daughter (past) and father/husband (future). In A Kind of Alaska, a woman awakes after 29 years asleep, and she, her sister, and her doctor each struggle with all they have lost with those years. And Ashes to Ashes turns a husband's questions about a wife's former lover into a game where the landscape of memory remains murky and shadowed, shifting like mountains of sand that give you no solid footing.

The thing about Pinter is that the beauty of the language is balanced by the brutality of the emotions they convey, that the sharpness of every word that the characters throw at each other, like knives, is leavened by an unexpected tenderness, that the bleakness that wraps around the stage like a dark cloud is lifted by jolts of black humor. I walk away feeling drained and confused and yet thrilled by what I have seen. I look forward to more with the greediness of a small child who tastes something wonderful for the very first time.


Charles said...

I am so thrilled you loved Kimberly King in Becky's New Car (which S Bouchard also played in). I was the lucky guy who commissioned Beckys New Car for my wife's birthday, and 2 years later Steven Dietz and Kurt Beattie in collaboration produced the acclaimed Beckys New Car. By the way, Kimberly King is also staring in this role in the Kansas City production (New Theatre April 15 thru June 20th). "Becky" after opening in Seattle in Oct 2008, will be produced by 8 regional theatres in the 09/10 season. It finished its run in both Portland and Saint Paul. It was rated #2 out of the 10 best in the twin cities for 2009 productions. My wife and I are like groupies and we attend every production. Here is some additional good news; 5 other Seattle couples are commissioning plays with ACT and creating their own "Becky". ACT gets royalties from every Becky production. Becky has made money at every theatre it has opened in. Its an amazing story...and we just hold on, and see where Becky takes us next. As playwright Steven Dietz said, "this is a gift that just keeps on giving". By the way, if anyone wants to see Becky again it will be produced by Vancouver Arts Club in Vancouver BC (Granville Island stage) May 6th thru June 5th. Charles Staadecker

kairu said...

Charles, I remember sitting in the audience of Becky's New Car with tears streaming down my face, absolutely overjoyed to see Suzanne Bouchard, R. Hamilton Wright, and Michael Winters together on stage again, and Kimberly King, who I remembered from A Prayer for My Enemy at Intiman the year before. Seattle is lucky to have you and your wife as patrons of the arts; the works you commission will remain as an enduring act of love, both for each other and for art, and I am so grateful.