Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Passion of Frank Corrado.

I am a few minutes early for this week's Pinter Fortnightly reading; the room is still half-empty. There seem to be more chairs, this time. The stage runs parallel to one long side of the room instead of sitting squarely at the end. There are more props; chairs and round café tables with bottles of wine and mineral water. The actors are milling about, disappearing and reappearing behind a partition at the end of the room, and I wonder (not for the first time) just what exactly is back there and how many people could possibly fit in what cannot be a very large space. I chat with an elderly lady who agrees with me: we are lucky to have a theater community as rich and intimate as this one. I tell her I grew up in this town, with these actors. The room fills with more theater-lovers, and we begin.

At the heart of it all is Frank Corrado (who reads the stage directions in a voice that can only be described as "mellifluous"), whose passion for Harold Pinter is what brought us all here tonight, has been bringing us all together over a series of readings that began last summer, and, I hope, will continue. Bit by bit, with each play, the separate pieces of Pinter's ouevre have been assembling themselves in my mind into one cohesive body of work, anchored by the now fifteen-year-old memory of Betrayal, which I saw at Intiman in 1995. Pinter's last play, The Celebration, is entirely different, and yet not. It is pure comedy, but with that occasional sharp jab that Pinter does so well, those verbal spears that people stick in all those places they know will hurt you the most.

In The Celebration (which Pinter wrote after a disastrous restaurant dinner), two tables of diners are having dinner in a posh London restaurant. Their raucous conversation grows progressively rowdier as the evening goes on, interrupted intermittently by a historically (and hysterically) name-dropping waiter, an imperturbable maître 'd, and an emotionally oversharing maîtresse 'd. As an audience, we grow progressively rowdier to match the verbal antics onstage, whooping and laughing along. The energy in the room is something else. We are a community of theater lovers, of Pinter-lovers. The actors are enjoying themselves as much as we are, and I am wiping away tears (of laughter).

A series of three short sketches follows, each funnier than the next, each depending on that complex mastery of inflection, expression, and timing that breathes life into comedy. We roar with laughter at the innuendo of Trouble in the Works, howl at the painful job interview in Applicant, and explode when Frank Corrado and Kurt Beattie end things with the hysterical Victoria Station. Again and again I am blown away by the chemistry between the actors, their ability to hit upon that comedic alchemy that is all the more extraordinary given that they are reading from a script, having had almost no time at all to rehearse.

The pure, electric excitement of being in the theater is like nothing else.

There is one more reading scheduled for the Pinter Fortnightly series. I won't be here, unfortunately, but I know it will be as wonderful as all the others have been.

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