- Peter Brook = amazing. I’d heard of him, I have a book by him, I saw a play all about foreigners dreaming to see a play directed by him, and still, nothing prepared me for actually seeing his work.
- The entire production had a beautiful minimalism to it. Simple and brightly-colored chairs littered the stage, some upright, some knocked over. All were used in multiple ways. Movement, blocking, text; all remarkably precise.
- The story itself was presented with an unusual yet very fitting tone. A man catches his wife cheating on him, and instead of reacting with some kind of outward physical aggression, he identifies the suit of the man she was with as a ‘new guest’ who the wife must treat with infinite hospitality. There’s something sick and twisted about it all, but somehow the play remains light on it’s feet and there’s plenty of laugh-out-loud, touching, warm moments presented above the bubbling rage.
- Thrilling music– accordion, guitar, lots of singing– all wonderful. Most of the songs were well-fitting unknowns, so it was a particularly interesting choice to include Feelin’ Good by Nina Simone.
- I know it wasn’t technically part of the show, but Peter Brook came out after the performance and talked for about 45 minutes without a moderator (because he’s never liked anything in moderation!) and that was just as good as the show itself. See below.
- The ending is tragic, yet also feels inevitable. Because the event of the end held no surprise in itself, I wish the manner by which it came was less predictable. I hate to sound horrific– but something loud like a gunshot or violent with screaming would have been a powerful contrast to the quietly percolating emotions that pervaded the rest of the play. To throw out a TV reference, I think the most tragic moment in Battlestar Galactica was this event with Dualla (spoiler alert), precisely because of how calm everything around it was.
Tales from After the Show
- Peter Brook is truly a genius. And he’s a wonderful performer in his own right– endlessly fascinating to hear speak about most any subject. He’s funny, witty, and above all else, British. He spoke about his method of starting a production by throwing everything at it then carving away until there’s absolutely no excess, how he feels about theatre in the age of technology, how the apartheid serves as the backdrop of ‘The Suit’, and the importance of filching brilliant ideas from others. You can download the entire talk-back for your listening pleasure here.
- I love me some Pinter. The actors used the pauses well and there were a lot of fun moments that you can only find in a Pinter play.
- The actors and the writing tackle some heavy subject matter (random acts of kindness for the homeless & mentally disturbed) with enough levity to keep the show entertaining without ever trivializing the issue.
- Although it was only the second play Pinter ever had produced, it felt like it could have been a sequel to my favorite Pinter play ‘No Man’s Land.’ In that play, a homeless man spends the show working up the courage to ask if they can live with someone. In this play, that’s the jumping off point. ‘No Man’s Land’ had more juicy menace, but this was funnier.
- On the funny note, there were some hilarious standalone bits. One involves Mick’s entrance where he keeps repeating the same questions to poor, already-troubled Davies, one involves a matchbox in the dark, and one involves a bag being passed around. Brilliant.
- Jonathan Pryce was magnetic. His laughing was well-considered and provided magnificent pacing to his diatribes, his anger was terrifying and saddening, his physicality was flawless. And when it came time to make us truly pity him, truly wish we could help him, he delivered. The last few moments we see him are truly heartbreaking.
- I was really hoping the play would go to where it did in the last 10 minutes, and I’m glad it did. It helped ground the entire show.
- In the moment, I enjoyed the ending. In retrospect, it leaves a yucky taste in my mouth. Without completely giving it away, it hints that a lot of what happened in the play could have been imagined. Maybe one or two of the characters never existed? It’s a fascinating idea (if done right), but as far as I could tell, the seeds for such a contention were never planted in the show. Needlessly spooky.
- The actor playing Mick… either he needed more of a history to justify his behavior, or he needed to act more human and take time building more to his extremes. None of his outbursts felt particularly earned–just like shock value.
- As much as I love Pinter’s dialogue, a lot of it in this play felt excessive and like it needed the work of a good editor. At the same length as ‘Death of a Salesman’ (2 hours and 45 minutes), this show had maybe one third of the emotional discoveries. I think the show could get the same story across and ultimately pack more punch if it lost about an hour.
- Because I love ‘No Man’s Land’ so much, I couldn’t help but keep comparing the two shows, and be secretly thinking how ‘No Man’s Land’ conveyed a lot of elements concisely and powerfully that were still being fussed with in the writing of this play (e.g. quiet threats are better than vocal ones, monologues should be earned and are most interesting when you’re deeply invested in the reaction of the listener(s), the nature of memory loss is more interesting if there are dots to connect). But hey, ‘No Man’s Land’ came much later in his career, so that shows improvement.
Tales from the Stagedoor…
- Actually, a talkback session with the actors and a Pinter scholar.
- Jonathon Pryce played Mick in this show back in 1980. He says “when the writing is really good, it’s like working with an orchestra behind you.” Also, his dad was sent to an asylum, so this was a very personal production.
- “What is the nature of the Buddha statue?” Enlightenment. A precious object. Smashed to bits. Metaphors abound.
- One person said that it felt like too often they were just ‘playing for laughs.’ The response from the actors was a well-reasoned explanation of being true to the material and never playing for laughs, but keeping in mind that laughs are certainly intended by Pinter. They argued that tragedy feels that much darker when its contrasted with the levity of humor. I agree.
- When asked ‘why does Aston invite Davies to live with him at all’, the actor said that his character’s life was a very boring one and more activity could help. In addition to being a random act of kindness, this was kind of like having a dog or a cat. It’s just nice to have life around.
- The whole session was very enlightening, both looking at the craft of acting, and doing justice to a solid piece of writing. Listen to the whole talkback here.