Archive for March 11th, 2008

“The Lover” and “The Collection” – Comedy Theatre

March 11, 2008

Let’s start by saying I like Pinter. I like him a lot. In fact, I have it as a goal to see all plays by Pinter (and he’s not dead yet so there may be more to come, which I’m kind of excited about. New plays by someone I worship! If only I could be so lucky with Ibsen).

I like Pinter because he treats his audience like we’re smart. We don’t need to be spoon-fed, we don’t need extensive back story (because well-written characters make it for themselves when they’re on stage). We’re intelligent, skilled, thinking audiences who can draw their own conclusions about what happened on the stage without having to be told how we should feel about it at the end (let us all cringe about Neil Simon and most of the touchy-feely crap Sharon Ott produced at the Seattle Rep).

In fact, Pinter often leaves enough holes that his plays are little puzzles, and I feel that it’s my duty, as the person he is writing for, to struggle my way through them when I find myself not sure about something that I just saw. Fortunately, I’ve got the rest of my life to think about them if I want, but I’m grateful that even if I don’t get the answers, at least I’ve got things running through my head that are worth debating with other people after the show, when half of the time I come out of the theater going, “Right, done. Can you pass me the London Paper?” So off we headed (Whinger_Phil, J, and Sue), four hard-core theater fans, for what promised to be a grown-ups night at the theater. (And I must say there were no people talking loudly about the show like there was at Dealer’s Choice – it was a much more savvy audience.)

Pinter performed by English actors at the top of their game is ace. J and I had even seen Gina McKee before, in another Pinter production at the Donmar (Old Times), and she was glowing and witty as the wife in The Lover. Her banter with her husband was incredibly naturalistic, without any of the car-changing-gears clunkiness of Pinter done badly; even the silences were handled easily, breaking at the point when you would expect people to finally speak to each other. We laughed most of the way through, and when things got tense, we were really on the edge of our seat. It was a puzzle; we did not know what the solution would be, and watching them work their way through it was great.

The second half had us in for a Pinter take on Rashomon, in which several people have very different takes on the same events. With the married couple acting in the same space as the, er, male couple (their relationship wasn’t made clear but I was pretty sure the younger half, a very yummy looking Charlie Cox, was a rent boy), it was a bit difficult to figure out what the relationship of the four was – and just when you got that sorted out, the various people started crossing lines again.

So I walked out of the theater not knowing who had done what to whom in the second piece, and then today realized I apparently missed something glaringly obvious about the first play that totally changes the meaning of pretty much everything I saw. I’m not going to spell it out for you, but I should say that getting a program would be a good thing for me now and then, if only I wasn’t so damned cheap.

At any rate, if you’re going to blow your money on theater tickets (they can be had for 25 quid but I saw nothing anywhere advertising them for less) and you like a good puzzle, I highly recommend this set of plays. It was a great night out, the acting was top of the line, and you’ll never look at bongos the same way again.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Monday, March 10th, 2008.)

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“Dealer’s Choice” at Trafalgar Studios

March 11, 2008

Last Tuesday we went to Trafalgar Studios to see “Dealer’s Choice,” following a fine review from the West End Whingers. I dragged along my usual co-conspirator J. as well as Wechsler, figuring a play about poker would be a guaranteed win for an occasionally less-than-enthusiastic theatrical attendee. (J was of course as excited about going as I was.)

Dealer’s Choice is a perfect boy/girl date show, much like the movie Grosse Pointe Blank. The normal “ooh, ick, we’re in the theater” is overcome by the macho atmosphere of poker playing. Well, that’s a fair description, because what this is is, simply, a great play. Set half in the kitchen and dining room of a restaurant and half in its basement (where the after the interval poker game takes place), Dealer’s Choice is an on-the-edge-of-your-seat story with a really interesting cast of characters (a la Ocean’s Eleven). I have to give credit to the great cast and the great writing – there were no minor characters in this play (a real contrast to another “all men” drama, Glengarry Glen Ross, in which every character seemed to talk in the same voice). The poker game becomes a power play between the different characters, and watching them attempt to psyche each other out and figure out each other’s weaknesses sucked me right in, even though my knowledge of gambling is paltry. (Amusingly, the cards played during the show matched exactly what the characters said they’d been dealt – quite a feat of stagecraft in my book.)

At any rate, at £21 per ticket (easily available at half price if you buy online), Dealer’s Choice was a great play and a great night out. I highly recommend it.