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.