- Photo courtesy of North Coast Repertory Theatre
When Harold Pinter accepted his 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, he opined: “Language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you at any time.” The Pinter audience must be positioned somewhere between tantalization and precariousness, not merely receptive to but welcoming of the ambiguous and the inscrutable.
Two of Pinter’s one-act plays, The Lover and The Dumb Waiter, continue on the North Coast Rep’s Solana Beach stage through Sunday under the direction of David Ellenstein. Taut and earnestly performed by a cast of four, the two works showcase the audaciousness of Pinter, who died in 2008. The evening’s first one-act, The Lover, is a sophisticated adultery tale with a twist—though you see the twist coming a kilometer away. Mark Pinter and Elaine Rivkin are the well-spoken British husband and wife who share a role-playing secret that they begin to push too far. Their physical chemistry when out of their oh-so-proper pretensions, is delicious.
The Dumb Waiter, which premiered more than 50 years ago, is the more studied and certainly more challenging of the two Pinter plays. The story of two hit men (Frank Corrado and Richard Baird) apparently priming for an assassination in a dingy Birmingham basement is playfully abstruse, though the genius of the play is its inescapable sense of inevitability looming over the two characters’ nearly Abbott-and-Costello-like antics. Irritable Ben (Corrado) and hapless Gus (Baird) are retrieving food orders from the basement dumb waiter, but we know there’s more in store for them than that. When the house goes dark at the sudden finale, the applause is tentative. Is it over? What just happened? That’s the mischief of this North Coast Rep pairing: Lull the audience into a sense of false security with the entertaining but transparent tale of The Lover, then leave them confounded and a little stun-gunned by The Dumb Waiter.
Director Ellenstein and the cast treat these plays with reverence while milking the comedy that inhabits both and daring us to venture across that frozen pool of Pinter’s.
Two By Pinter: The Lover & The Dumb Waiter runs through June 17 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $32-$49.
Harmony, Kansas: In this world-premiere musical, a gay farmer is convinced by his city-slicker partner to join a gay men’s singing group in a not-so-gay rural community. Previews run June 14 through 22 (opening night is June 23) at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
Hoodoo Love: A young woman flees the cotton fields of Mississippi in hopes of becoming a blues singer. As you might expect, there are obstacles in her path. In previews through June 14; opens in earnest June 15 at 10th Avenue Theatre, Downtown.
Inherit the Wind: The Old Globe takes on the classic fictionalized version of the true story of the Scopes “monkey trial,” at the end of which a high-school teacher was convicted for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. The 1955 play used the trial as a parallel to the McCarthyism of the era. Opens June 17 in the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre at The Old Globe in Balboa Park.
Joe vs. the Volcano: Remember the 1990 movie starring Tom Hanks about a guy who thinks he’s dying of “brain cloud” and agrees to jump into a volcano? Well, now it’s musical theater. In previews through June 14; opens in earnest June 15 at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado.
Pride and Prejudice: Arts Off Broadway and Ivy Players present the stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel revolving around protagonist Elizabeth Bennet. Opens June 15 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown.
Too Old for the Chorus, But Not Too Old to be a Star: A handful of people meet in a coffee shop and talk, sing and dance about being older than 50. Opens June 14 at Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido.
Hands on a Hardbody: A musical based on a documentary? Yep. This Playhouse-commissioned play is about 10 contestants trying to win a truck in a battle of endurance, with music by Amanda Green and Phish frontman Trey Anastasio. Through June 17 at La Jolla Playhouse.
Nobody Loves You: In this musical comedy, a grad student of philosophy goes on a reality TV show to send a message to his ex-girlfriend and ends up lighting a new flame. Runs through June 17 at The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre.
Dirty Blonde: An aspiring actress on an annual trek to Mae West’s gravesite meets a film librarian who shares a devotion to the iconic sex symbol. Produced by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through June 17 at The Old Town Theatre.
Two by Pinter: The Lover and The Dumb Waiter: A couple of ‘50s- and ’60s-era one-acts by acclaimed British playwright Harold Pinter. Through June 17 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.
California Suite: Neil Simon’s comedy is made up of four playlets, each about visitors to the Beverly Hills hotel—from New York, Philly, Chicago and London. Through June 23 at Scripps Ranch Theatre.
Brilliant Mistake: This adult-themed, world-premiere comedy, about a novelist who hires a woman to find his birth mother, is set in North County and is presented as a live graphic novel of sorts. Through June 24 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad.
Respect: A Musical Journey of Women: The evolution of women’s role in society is explored through past top-40 hits in this upbeat musical. Through June 24 at the Lyceum Stage at Horton Plaza.
William Shakespeare’s Lear: The aging king divides his kingdom and hands the pieces over to his three daughters, according to his judgment of their recitations of love for him. Of course, he messes it all up and everyone dies. Through June 24 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido.
Coming Attractions: In this comedy, the proprietor of a hotel that had once catered to celebrities who wanted to get away from prying eyes has died, and some colorful folks have come to pay their respects. Runs through July 1 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando.
Blood and Gifts: A piece of historical fiction, this one centers on a CIA operative during the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s and is rife with geopolitical intrigue involving the Americans, the Brits, the Soviets, the Afghanis and the Pakistanis. Runs through July 8 at La Jolla Playhouse.
’Til Death Do Us Part: Late Nite Catechism 3: You, the theater-goer, are a member of a catechism class and part of the show in this interactive comedy. Through July 8 at Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido.
miXtape: Generation X was torn between disillusionment and hope in this cavalcade of music from the 1980s. Produced by Lamb’s Players Theatre, it runs through Sept. 2 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown.
Richard III: King Edward IV’s malicious, manipulative, murderous little brother lusts for England’s throne, takes it and presides over a reign of terror in Shakespeare’s history play. Through Sept. 29 in The Old Globe’s Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park.
As You Like It: If it’s a case of mistaken identity, it must be the Bard. The story of lovebirds Rosalind and Orlando in the Forest of Arden is part of The Old Globe’s 2012 Shakespeare Festival. Through Sept. 30 in the Globe’s Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park.
Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill.