Spiraling in, and spiraling out: two opposing journeys are on offer in a pair of hour long Pinter plays, directed by Shakespeare Theatre’s Artisic Director, Michael Kahn. The Lover and The Collection may well have been pet projects for the seasoned director, as there is a game spirit evident that enlivens these thorny dramas and makes them, well, fun.
The first presentation, The Lover, opens with a line that would have been shocking in the early 1960s, when these plays debuted, but is simply funny now: a husband asks his wife, quite casually, if her lover is going to be there this afternoon. From there, we take that inward spiraling journey into these characters’ lives, every new scene making us reevaluate everything we learned in the previous ones. As the classy and suburban married couple, Lisa Dwan and Patrick Kennedy nail the intricate details of Pinter’s dialogue, wherein the slightest, seemingly casual word choice can land like a bomb and cause hurt or laughter. This is the kind of play that you feel the need to see again as soon as it ends, to spiral back out and recontextualize everything you saw before.
Kahn and his design team wisely keep both plays distinctly within the milieu that Pinter wrote them. Placing them in the early Swinging Sixties of London allows for more than just the lovely, clever costuming of Jane Greenwood and spot-on props and rich sets of Debra Booth. They also place the characters at a tipping point in history. A decade or so earlier, and we might find it unbelievable that a couple would be progressive enough to openly discuss the wife’s lover. Whereas today, in our age of polyamory articles in The Washington Post, we might find it disappointing that the couple turns out to have some of the problems that they do.
This applies similarly to The Collection, which is bold enough to include a gay couple, but in the form of an outmoded trope – one man, an older and refined man-about-town, the other, a young fellow he rescued from the “slums.” It also features another couple, played again by Dwan and Kennedy, both convincingly inhabiting younger, hipper characters. Their paths cross that of the gay men – played with fierce poise by Jack Koenig and Patrick Ball – revealing ever more surprising connections between the two couples’ vastly different lives.
The Lover and The Collection
closes October 22, 2017
Details and tickets
If The Lover makes you want to see what you already saw again, The Collection makes you want to un-see what has come before. Every new scene, instead of revealing more, puts us a farther distance from pinpointing the truth. To reveal even what we learn about the plot by the second scene would be an unfortunate spoiler. Lies, motivations, secrets, and identities sprawl outward until we can no longer find the center. It’s a deliciously disorienting experience.
In a way, despite what you may think of when you think “Pinter,” this pair of plays comes off like fluff. Highly sophisticated, endlessly analyzable, and almost postmodern fluff – perhaps fluff with razor blades tucked inside – but fluff nonetheless. With their origin as TV teleplays, it should be no surprise that they are so entertaining; little wonder Kahn chose them as his warm-up before exiting on Hamlet.
Oh, and there’s a cat.
Sweet Bea has been blogging her stage debut in The Collection through her spokeswoman Susan Galbraith.
Here is her official trailer.
The Lover and The Collection by Harold Pinter . Directed by Michael Kahn . Featuring Patrick Ball, Lisa Dwan, Patrick Kennedy, Jack Koenig . Scenic Designer: Debra Booth . Costume Designer: Jane Greenwood . Lighting Designer: Mary Louise Geiger . Sound Designer: Veronica J. Lancaster . Dramaturg: Drew Lichtenberg . Voice and Dialect Coach: Lisa Beley . Assistant Director: Craig Baldwin . Production Stage Manager: Joseph Smelser . Stage Manager: Kristy Matero . Assistant Stage Manager: Rebecca Shipman . Produced by Shakespeare Theatre Company . Reviewed by Brett Steven Abelman.