Monday, August 6, 2012

Pinter resurrected at ACT

The late British playwright Harold Pinter has somehow become associated in the minds of many theater producers with box-office death. This is an error, judging by our experience Friday evening at ACT Theatre. There was a pretty good crowd on hand for performances of Pinter's one-act plays The Dumb Waiter and Celebration. If the happy audience reaction is any indication, we would say that, while Mr. Pinter himself is no longer with us, he's alive and kicking on stage.

It's certainly a help that director John Langs has in his cast two of the best actors working in Seattle, or anywhere else for that matter. Darragh Kennan played "Gus" and Charles Leggett "Ben" in The Dumb Waiter. My Sweetie, the official scorer, and I were sitting in the front row (as is our wont) a mere six feet from Leggett; he was on a cot reading a newspaper and not saying a thing, apart from an occasional expletive, and I couldn't take my eyes off of him. Gus and Ben are surely involved in something sinister, on a job waiting for instructions, but food orders keep coming in through the dumb waiter and its speaking tube. The communication between the two characters is always askew; they can't even agree if one should "light" the tea kettle or put it on. The tension mounts, especially during long pauses (a common Pinter tactic), until the job goes south on Gus.

The delicious cast of Celebration by Harold Pinter, playing at
ACT Theatre through August 26. Photo by Larae Lobdell.
Kennan and Leggett are waiters in a fancy restaurant in the second one-act of the night, Celebration. Leggett doesn't have much to say in this one, but Kennan is a riot as a waiter whose grandfather knew, well, just about everyone in literary, artistic, or Hollywood society. Add in Frank Corrado and Randy Moore as brothers who are boorish, well-off patrons of the restaurant; Anne Allgood and Julie Briskman as their long-suffering wives; Jefffrey FracĂ© and Mariel Neto as the gropey couple at the next table, one of whom, it turns out, had a fling with Corrado's character Lambert; and Peter Crook and Cheyenne Casebier as the eternally polite—up to a point—wait staff; and you have an all-star lineup of local talent having great fun with some wonderful language and skewering everyone in sight.

The double feature of The Dumb Waiter and Celebration continues through August 26, and two other plays, Old Times and No Man's Land, both featuring the same players, start up on the 15th and run through the 26th as well.

Corrado is something of a driving force behind ACT and its on-going Pinter Festival. He's been interested in the playwright since the 60s, and for several years has been working with ACT on a series of Pinter readings at the theater. Well done, Mr. Corrado. We'll be seeing the rest of the festival and urge everyone else to take it in as well.

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