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July 27, 2007
V 35 Issue 30

 
 
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The Caretaker Takes Good Care of Pinter
The Caretaker Takes Good Care of Pinter
by Miryam Gordon The Caretaker
by Harold Pinter
Directed by Michelle Gillette
Razor's Edge Productions at Stone Soup Theatre

July 13 through July 22 Plays by Harold Pinter kind of stump both theater-goers and theater-makers. What you get on the page is a lot of ellipses & which indicate a lot of strange pauses in speech. Sometimes, there might just be a sound, like "oh" and nothing more.

The challenge is to find a reason to say these truncated sentences so they make sense. If actors and directors are not careful, the whole production sounds stilted, awkward, and boring. If, however, the players find underlying reasons to say what the dialogue says, the play comes to life and breathes.

This "Caretaker" breathes. Deep inhalations. The three men, David Ketter (Davies), Gregory Magyar (Aston) and Eric Riedmann (Mick), are all strong actors and clearly have stories to tell. They maintain solid British accents, suitable to their characters, with gestures and attitudes to match.

The story revolves around two brothers, Aston and Mick, and a homeless man, Davies. Aston brings Davies home to a shabby mansion, for obscure reasons of his own. Aston is supposed to be fixing the mansion up for Mick, but work is almost too slow to notice. Each of the brothers asks the Davies to be a caretaker for the mansion, and he agrees. That's about all that "happens," as far as a storyline is concerned. But it's the relationships that matter.

David Ketter, as Davies, is a proud old man on the downward spiral of life. One of the key features of this character is his hate of "blacks, Poles and Jews," which was a comment by Pinter on the rampant prejudice of early 20th Century British society. Ketter's delivery of these imprecations becomes somewhat humorous, as he tries to assume a better-than-thou attitude about his place in the world. He desperately wants to get "sorted out" and back on track. His bombast and bluster keep the pace of the play moving. Ketter provides most of the comic relief, with his snores, farts and forgetfulness. His main desire is a good pair of shoes, so that he can walk to the town where all his papers are, so he can prove who he is. He doesn't know why Aston has invited him home, but goes along and reluctantly accepts money and a place to stay.

Gregory Magyar, as Aston, is brooding and mysterious, and seems at once simple and complicated. He doesn't talk to people, yet decides to bring Davies home with him. His simple, trusting gestures toward Davies are an enigmatic surprise. With a lurching gate, he tinkers and broods through most of the play until his trauma is finally revealed. As a teenager, he was confined to a mental hospital, where he would be kept forever unless he had a procedure - a massive electrical shock to the brain. Magyar's presentation of this horrible event and its aftermath is a riveting, vital moment.

Eric Riedmann, as Mick, is a violent, quixotic man, alternatively living in fantasy or attacking Davies for no reason. His quick turns from amiable to violent are scary. After the revelation of Aston's procedure in the mental hospital, one has to wonder if Aston would have been dangerous, as well, and that's what got him sent to the mental facility.

The setting, in Stone Soup Theatre's tiny stage area, was claustrophobic and hot. While perhaps not so intentional, it certainly helped the audience feel as trapped in the play as the actors. Afterward, it was nice to breathe deeply outside.

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