Category Archive for: ‘Gaetana Caldwell-Smith’

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Two Short Plays by Harold Pinter at the Belrose Theatre in San Rafael

Harold Pinter’s  Landscape and The Dumb Waiter are billed as Act One and Act Two, yet they have no relation to each other. These engrossing short plays are being presented by Marin Onstage weekends through November 21 at the Belrose Theatre in San Rafael.  With Pinter we never really  know what’s going on, nor who the characters are, or their relationship to each other until the play is well on its way, thus keeping us in suspense.

Scenes from Landscape and The Dumb Waiter

Scenes from Landscape and The Dumb Waiter

In “Landscape” director Ron Nash seats Beth (wonderful, expressive Esther Mulligan) and her husband, Duff (a pragmatic, sincere, poignant Kit Grimm) at opposite ends of a long table in- we discover- the kitchen of the dead owners’ estate, which they have taken over.  Each tell disconnected stories from the past.  Beth looks out over the audience,  reminiscing about a man, a beach, the feel of his sun-warmed skin in such a way as to have us sharing her experience.  Is she simply setting the landscape, or talking about Duff?  We are not sure until the end when Duff appears to reach a boiling point and walks over to Beth, shouting accusations, barely containing his anger.  Still they seem unable to communicate.  We feel this has been ongoing throughout their marriage.

“The Dumb Waiter” is billed as a music hall type of comedy, parts of which are reminiscent of an Abbot and Costello “Who’s on first?” routine.   The play opens with two middle-age men, Gus and Ben.  Gus is played by Michael Walraven who carries off his baddie role as though made for it.  He is the fall-guy for Ben (Grey Wolf,who looks like Jim Parson’s Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory,” only much aged).  They lie atop single beds at opposite ends of a sleazy hotel room.  A couple of panels are built into the far wall, painted the same  drab grey and black, as to be almost unnoticeable.

Ben reads aloud absurd or quirky items from a newspaper.   As the play progresses, we get that they are hit men temporarily esconsed in a “safe house”;  they pace about impatiently awaiting a call from the boss about their next job.  These bad guys complain in heavy South London accents about the bathroom plumbing, food, tea, lack of matches, cigarettes, and worst of all, no coins to feed the meter to turn on the gas to heat water for their tea.  I am reminded of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson who play hit men in the film “In Brudges,” who are on the lam and anxious about a visit from their boss.

With a startling bang, what is behind the panels is revealed.  One of them, they discover, is the dumb waiter.  Turns out, their hotel room was once something entirely else.   From here on, the play truly becomes hilarious as they try to fill food orders sent down in the dumb waiter and on the talking tube, from the meager snacks from their luggage.  At one point, guns are drawn, threats made.  It all ends with a delightful twist.

I encourage you not to miss these two short Pinter plays at the charming Belrose Theatre in San Rafael.

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