Posts Tagged ‘Comedy Theatre’

Mini-review – Mojo – Harold Pinter Theater (formerly the Comedy)

February 2, 2014

Mojo, also known as “that all-male comedy starring Ben Wishaw,” seems to have been doing a bumper business at the Harold Pinter since its opening in November – helped, no doubt, by a few people like RevStan, who’s been to see it at least five times. (This is made possible by the day seating program and its £10 tickets.) I, however, have no stomach for standing in the cold (and wet) for two hours to see a show; and the ticket prices were otherwise just too rich for me. This left me feeling pretty frustrated as I kept hearing good things about it; I mean, what if they were right? I was going to miss out!

Fortunately my whimpers of distress were noticed by a person I will euphemistically refer to as “Santa Claus,” who bought me tickets for an evening in January. So there I was on a Friday night, in the dress circle (actually in very nice seats), ready to have my world rocked (and looking suspiciously around for Harry Potter fans. I’m pleased to report Rupert Grint may be allowed to actually develop as an actor rather than being penalized by his fan base).

I don’t know, I kind of wonder now why I went. I’d really avoided reading much about the plot, and was pretty surprised when nearly the entire first act consisted of two guys talking so quickly and in such weird, slangy English that I really could not follow their conversation. The audience was laughing, though, not that I knew why. Instead, I was sitting there, watching, trying really hard to hear, and wondering, what, exactly, is going on here? They’re at a club? There’s a young blond Elvis performing? They are taking drugs? Lots of drugs? They might be playing cards? Something about serving tea? Um, minge joke, okay, that was a little bit funny, but … um, what?

And then we suddenly wind up in a scene where some guy is tied to a jukebox (nearly) naked while some other guy is swinging a sword around and then another guy comes in and is all grim, and, I don’t know, WHY WAS ANYTHING FUNNY? I was finding it tense and uncomfortable and I might have considered leaving because I really was just not following along. And then it seemed to become more of a mobbish/revenge kind of thing but, really, I would have preferred being back at The Dumb Waiter, where people said less but meant more.

I left the play without ever figuring out what happened in the first act. But sometime in the second act I realized that all of the characters worked at a nightclub in Soho that had apparently become the target for some kind of gangland takeover. The focus of events turned to Mickey (Brendan Coyle), the standout single competent employee in the club, and Baby (Ben Wishaw), the son of the club owner and massive head case.

So … let’s talk about Wishaw. In some ways, this was really a star turn, as watching him prowl/stagger/swagger across the stage, you could help but feel he was in a different world from the other characters. But the you couldn’t help but try to figure out what world it is. I hate to think that I’ve been living here so long that I too have become obsessed with actors’ accents (though it’s hard not to when every time I see a play with British actors playing Americans I get asked if the accents were authentic or not). I couldn’t tell if I was watching an English actor attempting to do a Brooklynese accent badly, or if I was watching an Italian-English character attempting to do an American gangster-type accent badly. It just all didn’t make sense. And, for once in my life, because the way a character was speaking in a play didn’t make sense, I wasn’t able to give him any kind of context that could make him come to life. I was just watching a person act – dramatically, mind you – but I wasn’t engrossed in the play.

Now let’s not be mistaken: the tragic, violent turn things took in the final act certainly made me sit up and pay attention (especially as I thought it might have all been a dream of Baby) and really just upended my whole perception that I was watching a comedy. I’m not sure how the rest of the audience took it (aside from the walkouts) but I wound up feeling quite discombobulated and a whole lot more convinced that I’d actually seen some good theater because what happened in the final act made clear the relationships between the various men in a way that I could feel. But I can’t forgive this play the first act. Worth seeing: well, probably; worth two hours: maybe; worth 60 quid: absolutely not. Twenty pounds max: day seats or nothing. Unless, of course, you somehow are able to cobble something together out of the first act.

(This review is for a performance that took place on January 24, 2014. Runs through February 8th.)

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Mini-review – Betrayal – Comedy Theater

August 19, 2011

There is something so perfect about seeing Pinter at the Comedy Theater, where, per the posters, nearly every play he’s written has been produced, or so it seems. Unfortunately the current revival of Betrayal is suffering from the pricing associated with celebrity casting (Kristin Scott Thomas), so I’ve put off seeing this show for months waiting for seats I could afford. £25.00 in the way way way up there balcony? Forget it. However, Lastminute.com saved my bacon with some £15 restricted view seats that were at least actually seats rather than standing (albeit designed for ladies shorter and slimmer than myself: I spent the whole show sitting sideways), so a few days before this production ends I was finally able to see it.

The production got off to a stilted start as Thomas sits with Douglas Henshall, the boyfriend to her character Emma, having drinks at a table and failing to discuss whatever it is they’ve come to discuss. While I thought they might try to play up the Pinterian “silences,” in fact the clunkiness came from the rather mechanical way they were and then weren’t looking at each other. Sentence end: she up, he down. Pause: he at her, she sideways. I imagined them being drilled in it mercilessly until Ian Rickson was positive they knew exactly, at every phrase, where Emma and Jerry are looking. I quailed as we were dragged through the painful scene. Was this going to be a terrible evening? Just minutes later (though going backwards in time), Emma throws the keys across the stage in what was supposed to be a furious, despairing moment, but which had the sponenaiety of a birthday party for Kim Jong Il.

And then … God, when did the magic happen? Was it when snippy, somewhat evil Robert (Ben Miles) came on stage and we started to see the proof of the first of what began to seem like an endless series of lies? Watching Robert prowl around and bluster, I couldn’t help but think of the playwright’s own lies in telling this play, as he retold his own story in a way that suited his needs. Who really was the baddie? Was the boyfriend portrayed as a bit of a simpleton in part to wreak revenge for the wife’s infidelity, or was the husband a bully because it made him less sympathetic? I wasn’t sure of the details of the real life incidents but, man, I got sucked in fast. Scene after scene of unspun and newly minted untruths, the simple hard facts of how manipulative people are to each other, the strange mystery of how passion plays into the equation, the sense of ownership that comes into relationships, the pathetic reality of how completely unable to entangle ourselves from each other we are … I was almost breathless waiting for each scene to happen. I lost track of time. I lost track of the play. I forgot about the actors (although I did wonder about some clothes and set furnishings). And suddenly it was over and, oh man, Pinter had taken me for quite a ride. I realize it was only 90 minutes long but it was the most engaged period of time I’d spent in a theater in ages.

Anyway, it’s a few days later, and the play is closing this weekend, but man, if you’re trying to figure out what to do and you want one of those peak experiences, I’d highly recommend seeing Betrayal. I was immensely pleased at what I got for £15 (despite the near bruises on my shins) and expect you will be, too.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, August 15th, 2011. It’s final perfomance is Saturday at 7:30 PM.)

Review – La Bête – Comedy Theatre (London – then Music Box Theater, New York)

August 17, 2010

I was a little late getting to see La Bete – the West End Whingers’ rave was well over a month old before I got a call from a friend saying, “Take me to see something good!” What can I say about July, I was just too busy to fit another show in, but then suddenly it was mid-August, I still hadn’t seen it, and I had noticed as I was planning my trip to New York that it was transferring to the Music Box Theater so there was no chance of an extension and by God, if I was going to go see it, I needed to get a move on, and my friend’s visit seemed the ideal opportunity to finally GO.

I had seen tickets available fairly regularly through the TKTS office, but they had none at all yesterday, and my fallback LastMinute.com had exactly one ticket – not really helpful! I’d really disliked the last play I saw from the uppermost balcony of the Comedy(the play was fine but the view was so bad it was actively irritating) and really didn’t want utterly crap tickets – and yet, as it turned out, the side of the first balcony ticket that I got (giving my friend the more expensive seat next to me – we split the cost for the two and used some theatre tokens to make up the difference) still had an irritatingly blocked view of about a fifth of the stage – the left side – where people insisted on standing and sitting and making entrances for rather a lot of the show. I was pretty irritated that what I had was supposed to be a 35 quid ticket – it was more like a 10 pound ticket with as much of the view as I had. Consider yourself warned.

The better question, of course, was how good was the show? Well, I didn’t know a think about it other than that one actor I’d recently been impressed by was in it and that it had a French title and that the Whingers gave it a five wine glass review – and I thought it was hysterical. Well, okay, maybe it wasn’t hysterical, maybe there was a scene or two where it was a bit slow and I assumed that it was just being dragged out because they had to get in all of the words that were in the original script, but I let that ride because I was having a good time. I was astounded by Mark Rylance’s ability to hold a stage for a 20 minute long monologue (was that it?) while his character’s offensiveness snowballed to degrees that I thought either of the two actors on stage might have hit him just to get him to shut up – when he mocked someone’s handicap it just kind of jumped the shark, as if … well, I don’t want to spoil any of the fun. Watching two characters – Rylance (playing Valere) and David Hyde Pierce (as the playwright Elomire) – go head to head in an attempt to win over Princess Compti (Joanna Lumley) was just as much fun as watching the evil, shrewd characters in a real Moliere play take each other on, and I was riveted to my seat for the entire 1:45 running time (thus making it a perfect after-work play).

In retrospect, I discovered that this wasn’t actually a rehashed Moliere play at all, but a modern American play (circa 1991) with no debt to Moliere at all other than for general flavor. The various bits of extremely modern language and excessive crassness and even the actors’ descriptions of different performance methodologies were not one of them ported over – they were all new. Still, with as much classical theater as I see, I found myself perfectly situated to enjoy this play, and the things I thought didn’t fit in terms of the “apparent” time of the play worked just as well as Shakespearean plays set in, oh, medieval Italy or ancient Greece. And the “argument” of the play within the play – and the subsequent interpretations of what it’s actual meaning was by Rylance and Hyde Pierce – was deliciously addressed to today’s modern money-obsessed theater culture. After all, did the director not cast a television actor – an American, nonetheless – in one of the lead roles, in a blatant move to make the play sell when it was ported to America? And did he not flesh it out with a transnational cult star (Joanna Lumley) and this year’s Hot Not-so-young Man on Stage?

Rather frustratingly for me (as I really would have liked to have turned my nose up at any instance of celebrity casting), the actors were actually all just really on the mark. And, maybe, when it comes down to it, this is just a piece of hollow entertainment and I’m a shallow person who mistakes clever wordplay and crass buffoonery for High Art. Well, wait, no I’m not, I know this play wasn’t really particularly deep, but it was certainly clever enough for me and a good night out, and, when it comes down to it, in my book that means La Bête richly achieved Job One of a theatrical production: it rewarded me for spending my hard earned money and not-so-copious free time in a chair in a theater. I might think it’s a bit overpriced at the rates The Comedy is charging, but it’s certainly a good show, and I think that the transfer will do very well; this should well please New York audiences looking for a witty show well done by actors at the peak of their game.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Monday August 16th, 2010. La Bete continues at the Comedy through September 4th, then moves to New York for a run at the Music Box theater that starts September 23rd; though that’s officially a preview I’d say don’t hesitate to book before the official opening night because this cast has spent plenty of time getting it down right and you should be getting a very fully formed show long before the official opening night of October 14th. For more reviews, please see UpTheWestEnd.com.)

Review – Keira Knightley’s “Misanthrope” – Comedy Theatre

December 12, 2009

Keira Knightley on the West End is one of the most hyped “event theater” moments of 2009, and it was with bated breath I went to see a preview (read: semi-affordable) of “The Misanthrope.” Now, Moliere is just brilliant; his witty couplets leave Fram bleeding by the wayside. I had high hopes for this new translation leading to a good night out. High hopes were very appropriate given my 2nd tier seats – according to the barman, the space had previously been used as storage, and God knows that in my many visits to the Comedy I’d never seen the stage from high up. Still, seated only one row ahead of the very last in the house, I had a generally unobstructed view of the stage, so there was only the quality of the acting to worry about and not “can I enjoy this with only 1/3 of the theater visible” as I’ve experienced on other occasions.

Actually, though, there was a wee matter of the script. Fortunately, it has been updated pretty well, with references to post-Modernism, deconstruction, Derrida, feminism, the media, and the transience of fame. The structure and feel of Moliere has been – well, not entirely preserved, but rather “paid homage” to, with lots of little couplet-y rhymes thrown in and a nice iambic meter causing the script to flow trippingly off the actors’ tongues (occasionally perhaps a bit too much so), and a few references to the Baroque thrown in to remind us all of its origins (though I doubt anyone in the audience besides me had a clue who Marais was, despite his music playing at nearly every scene change). I’d say it smelled like Moliere, which was more than enough – the story itself is very good and the script did not need to be slavish in order to feel right.

This Misanthrope is set in the media-frenzied now, with Alceste (Damian Lewis) an unappreciated playwright with a dedication to utter honesty in one’s relations with others. This causes his best friend (Dominic Rowan) a great deal of amusement as Alceste’s standards are completely undermined by his brainless affection for Jennifer (Keira Knightly), an American actress who lives for attention (and appears to have got most of it by her half-naked film appearances). Comedy turns are provided by the critic who seeks Alceste’s approval of his script and the feminist professor (Tara FitzGerald) who claims concern for Jennifer while seeking Alceste’s attention, but mostly the play is about a grumpy old humbug who wants to love someone for what he wants her to be and not for what she really is. It’s timeless, really, and I found Alceste’s self-righteousness just as recognizable today as it was 300 years ago.

Sadly the weakest cog in the machine was Knightley herself, who managed to get her accent right but failed to do the acting. Her “I love you, Alceste” was as limp as a dead goldfish floating in a tank, and when she wasn’t being coy or making fun of people, she just failed to hit the mark. I wasn’t sure to what extent the script was to blame for this – she’s not supposed to be very intelligent or deep – but I think the character really deserved more texture than she got. Jennifer is a bit of Legally Blonde‘s “Elle,” but with a lot more snark, and Knightley wasn’t managing to make the character believable, getting the dumb but not much else. Had she perhaps not had that much time to rehearse and get into the character – or was it her lack of stage experience showing? The weakness she showed in her confrontation scene with her former teacher (who really owned the stage during their catfight) was so notable that I’m convinced it was her own inexperience showing. Perhaps her performance will gel more over the course of the run.

Fortunately the rest of the performances and the show itself was more than enough to make up for a less that star powered turn by the lead female. The supporting cast was charming and sharp; the set was gorgeous; the costumes nicely done (especially in the over-the-top fancy dress ball at the end); and, well, the story was VERY funny. I would, in fact, consider this a perfect Friday night’s entertainment – chances are I’ll come back to watch from the floor – if I can get seats I can afford (I’d spend about 30). It’s practically a must that I sit somewhere else given that the squeaking of the seats in the back row caused me not to hear much of the dialogue of the first two scenes. While I got my twenty quid’s worth for my tickets, consider yourself warned.

(This review is for a preview performance that took place on Friday, December 11th, 2009, and it was about 2 1/4 hours straight through. Security is ridiculous and overbearing and offensive to normal theater goers, so consider yourself warned. The show continues through March 13th. My guess is that it will probably really be worth watching some time in January, so no rush. For an alternate view, I offer the wit and wisdom of the West End Whingers.)

Guest Review – Prick Up Your Ears – Comedy Theatre

September 28, 2009

What is a girl to do when she has tickets for two shows on the same night? Thanks to winning a ticket giveaway on LastMinute.com, this happened to me. I decided to stick with the shorter one and likely cheerier one (An Inspector Calls) and gave these tickets away to the husband of a friend of mine … a friend who’s a huge Joe Orton fan. My requested payment? A review of the show. And thus we have …

Prick Up Your Ears, a guest review by Katy

If you have read the biography and the diaries and the plays and watched the film adaptation (yes, I am a bit of an Orton fan, why do you ask), then the play of Prick Up Yours Ears will not show you anything you didn’t already know, but you should go to see it anyway. (The one thing I wasn’t expecting was the Battenberg-cake ceiling, which kept giving me a vague craving for marzipan.) If you haven’t done any of that, I recommend it anyway if you’re interested in watching the faithful depiction of a loving, intense, unbearable and tragic relationship rendered through very funny Ortonesque – and indeed Halliwellesque, why not? – dialogue.

I’ve always seen the inextricably intertwined history of Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell as one of the great love stories. There’s a satisfying clarity about the themes, the similarities and the oppositions: the two men shared their love, their trangressive homosexuality, their actors’ training, their obsession with language, their sense of humour and their anarchic indifference towards all forms of authority. It’s easy to see why they were together. And, terribly, you can also see right from the start why it was doomed. The young, attractive, working-class, confident, talented Orton and the older, middle-class, insecure, much less talented Halliwell, living for fifteen years in one room while one became famous and one didn’t: it all feels very inevitable.

The intelligent, realistic production of Prick Up Your Ears at the Comedy Theatre is of course very aware of all this. It’s an adaptation by Simon Bent of John Lahr’s biography of the same name, which was largely based on Orton’s diaries: Orton’s life was well documented, not just in content but in style. Everything the characters say on stage is more or less what they actually said at the time. And yet it’s art, too, because Orton himself made it art. The dialogue in his plays were very much riffs off the way the people around him spoke – illustrated in this production by Mrs Cordon (Gwen Taylor), the comic-relief landlady, who forms the third character in what is essentially a two-hander, and is basically a character from Orton while also being a real-life inspiration of his. At this point it starts to feel as if art and life are bouncing off each other like light off opposing mirrors: is Mrs Cordon Ortonesque, or was Orton Cordonesque?

The life-reflecting-art-reflecting-life effect is further heightened by the awareness that the play – and the film of Prick Up Your Ears, and the biographies, and the diaries – has given Halliwell at least a taste of what he always wanted, fame, too late for him to appreciate it; even if the fame is eternally linked to his lover’s. The fact that this production features celebrity actor Matt Lucas as Halliwell underlines the irony. Whereas the biography was really about Orton, the play is angled to become really a play about Halliwell. It was a good decision, and a good casting choice. Matt Lucas is a perfect Kenneth: bald, angry, pretentious, funny, showing us that his position is both untenable and irresistible. He delights in his lover’s failures and resents his successes, partly because he himself has failed, and partly because Orton’s successes are driving them apart. Chris New as Orton plays off him brilliantly: bickering, shouting, bantering affectionately, and then carelessly leaving to pursue his endless cottaging activities while Halliwell does the housework and sadly sniffs his lover’s scent on the pillows.

Poor Kenneth. Despite everything (and I’m not going to specify exactly what ‘everything’ is here, just in case there’s anyone who doesn’t know how this ends), it’s impossible not to feel sorry for him. My companion J (who was new to the story) muttered ‘Poor bastard!’ several times during the production, particularly when Orton presents Halliwell with a present – a wig to cover his baldness. And yet, what was Orton to do? It wasn’t a situation anyone could win at.

The structure of the play is chronological, taking us through the major turning points of the couple’s life together. First, the early years of library-book-defacing, and the seminal prison sentence that finally gave Orton space to write. (The prison theme is referenced throughout: every time the door to their room closes, the sound effect is of prison gates.) Then the increasing success of Orton’s plays, Orton becoming gloriously Orton and Halliwell remaining ingloriously, defiantly Halliwell. “You’ve changed,” says Kenneth after their post-prison reuniting. “You haven’t,” replies Joe glumly. Orton’s even changed his own name, from John to Joe.

He becomes famous. Every step takes him further away from Kenneth; and yet he never does leave. Their room, rendered on stage with claustrophobic, congested, increasingly-collaged accuracy, is a prison he keeps returning to. The couple have locked themselves into co-dependency, in the kind of love that continually tenses up into hate. It becomes increasingly hard to watch, the comedy darker and disintegrating, as they reach the end. Symbolically, Mrs Cordon has moved away: there’s no light relief from each other now, and although Joe is starting to consider it, Kenneth is determined that there shall be no escaping.

(This review was for a performance in September, I think on the 23rd. Prick Up Your Ears continues until December 6th at the Comedy Theatre.)

Review – Fat Pig – Comedy Theatre

September 26, 2008

After reading the Whingers’ enthusiastic review of Fat Pig, I was eager to go … but apparently the cat was out of the bag, and night after night I was unable to get an affordable seat at Trafalgar Studios. Fortunately, it’s been moved to The Comedy Theatre, so I had a second chance to see this play – and when an offer came up for free tickets for the first hundred people to buy a pair, I leapt at the chance.

Oddly, I had a bit of trouble convincing other people to see this play with me. I think the title really puts people off – it did me and only the positive review of several people I respect convinced me to go. This isn’t an anti-fat play, no matter what you might think.

My posse convened at Red Hot, a new Szechuan restaurant on Charing Cross Road (actually quite close to the theater, though closer to Wyndhams). I could go on and on about how good the food was – or the irony of going to a play called “Fat Pig” when I was so stuffed I could barely walk – but I’ll save that for later. At any rate, I feared I would fall asleep during the show and downed cup after cup of green tea during the meal. Thankfully, service was fast and we made it from arrival at the table (at 6 PM) to arrival at the Comedy in a mere hour and twenty minutes. More restaurants should follow this example!

At any rate, I was surprised to find Wilco playing over the loudspeakers when we arrived. How pleasant! Unfortunately the theater appeared to only be about half full, which did result in us being moved forward about ten rows (to my relief, I really dislike being under a low ceiling in the stalls). And the program came with free chocolates! I was still too cheap to buy one, but it almost changed my mind – and if there’d been a bit of room inside of me, I’m sure I would have been swayed.

To my surprise, this play is actually set in America. This is pretty nice for me, to see my home depicted in a modern play (as opposed to some Tennessee Williams chestnut – we have moved on!). The actors actually did fairly well with the accent as well (with the exception of Joanna Page, who kept falling apart around the edges). I couldn’t place the location – while with its mention of “beach” and “big office” it seemed like it was supposed to be New York or East Coast, but the way people were acting made me think much more of Ohio. And the reference to the Albertson’s grocery store was very West Coast, but it was clear this wasn’t taking place in California.

The story is about a youngish man, Tom (played by Nick Burns) who meets a girl named Helen (Ella Smith) while having lunch one day. They hit it off pretty well, and soon he’s dating her – a fact he hides from his best work friend/tormentor Carter (Kevin Bishop) and office accountant Jeannie (Page), who (oops!) Tom was apparently dating but hasn’t really had the guts to break up with. She still thinks it’s going on, Carter wants to make them fight with each other, and the next thing you know, the whole office has had the picture of the “Fat Pig” Tom had dinner with plastered on their desktops.

The cast is apparently just half of what it was originally, as both of the women carried over from Trafalgar Studios, but the men have both been replaced. Bishop seems to have jumped in with both feet, but Burns has more work to do, as a lead character who is basically weak is hard to make sympathetic (witness Rosmersholm). I found Smith’s Helen just incredibly sympathetic, and while much of this can be ascribed to great dialogue, she also just really seemed to “get” the character 0 – the self-deprecating humor, the honesty, the brave girl face on top of the person who actually still wants to be accepted and loved. I was also really surprised that her conversations with Tom were so incredibly naturalistic – normally in plays, couples are in high drama mode, but this “working through our issues” stuff could have come right out of my mouth. It was especially a contrast with the high-octane bragadoccio and just plain filth that came out of Carter’s mouth – it got a lot of laughs but over and over the audience gasped at his unrestrained words.

This was really a good show and all of us got into it. Though the set is simple and the costumes plain (really, could Jeannie have had more than just two outfits – one of them the swim suit in the final scene?), I found the dialogue great and the play really convesation provoking. Despite my very full stomach, I had absolutely no problems staying awake for this entire show. It’s worth seeing, absolutely, and I think the people who didn’t come with me didn’t know what they were going to be missing.

(This review is for a performance that took place on September 25th, 2008. Ambassadors is running a deal for £20 tickets: “Best Tickets £20! (Valid all Mon- Fri eves & both mats until 10 Oct)
Enter Promotion Code: FPSTAND.” Also Kelly Brook, whoever she is, is taking over the role of Jeannie from October 13th, and someone named Katie Kerr is taking over the role of Helen, I think from the same time. )

“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.)