Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pinter Fortnightly. The Room and The Collection.

I remember clearly, as I've said before, seeing a performance of Harold Pinter's Betrayal at Intiman Theatre in 1995. That was fifteen years ago. That was all the experience I had with Pinter until last summer, when the actor Frank Corrado channeled a life-long passion for Pinter into a series of fortnightly readings at A Contemporary Theater. I caught the last one, Moonlight, and it left me eager for more. My eagerness was rewarded by a new company, Shadow and Light Theatre (founded by the aforementioned Frank Corrado and the sublime Suzanne Bouchard), and a production of two one-act plays, Ashes to Ashes and A Kind of Alaska a few months ago. Then the Pinter Fortnightly series started up again, and although I missed the first one, I made it to the second.

This time around I recognize some of the players: Anne Allgood, from Rock 'n' Roll last fall, and Elise Hunt, from last summer's Moonlight. There are six actors, besides Frank Corrado (who presents the plays and gives the stage directions), some of whom are in current productions and are here on their night off. We start off with The Room, Pinter's first play, and suddenly I realize that now I have seen more Pinter than I have any other playwright, save for Shakespeare. (Though Shaw, Stoppard, Chekhov, Ackbourn, and Steven Dietz are close behind). The Room is, like his other works, by turns sharp, funny, somewhat unnerving and suspenseful, rising unexpectedly in a shattering crescendo that causes me to jump about a foot in the air at its climax. (In this last part it is unlike the other plays I have seen).

The Collection is different. It is more like a Noel-Coward-like drawing-room farce, entertaining, but still with something unsettling about it, the way Pinter is always unsettling. The more details you know, the more truths you hear, the less you understand. As it draws to a close I finally realize that I can imagine all the plays I've seen so far as one cohesive body of work, that Pinter, as a playwright, hit the ground running with The Room and just kept going, creating a language, a sense of atmosphere that remains entirely his own. I can hardly wait for more.