Sunday, February 24, 2013

Review: (Toronto) The Dumb Waiter

Serving up a classic with a side of confusion
by Gregory Bunker

In The Dumb Waiter, Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter creates a suspenseful, one-act play centred on two hit men discussing the mysterious nature of their next job. Completely character-driven, the script carefully ratchets up the tension with each line to its eventually obvious but still unbearable conclusion. This tension was sadly missing in the Two Wolves production, replaced instead by general confusion.

The fundamental problem was the acting. This play needs actors who can quickly establish their rapport as partners, and reveal just how unusual this particular situation is. Instead, Gus (Jesse Watts, and also one of the two wolves of Two Wolves Theatre) and Ben (Carmine Lucarelli) seemed like two neurotics still getting to know each other. Watts rushed his lines, removing the crucial pace and pauses needed to demonstrate how his initial confusion evolves into concern. Lucarelli’s performance also obscured the plot: he only ever appeared to be angry, when he also needed to show that his irritability came from grave inner conflict. The opportunity to showcase the brilliantly nuanced script—and, crucially, to reveal the plot—was lost in the gulf between these two rather one-dimensional hit men.

This was director Christopher Mastropietro’s first Pinter play, and he needed to pay closer attention to its subtleties. By the end, I was clueless about the significance of the dumbwaiter and even the title of the play; the ending seemed to come out of nowhere. For anyone not already familiar with this play, you may leave this production scratching your head.

The Dumb Waiter runs to March 3 at Theatre Passe Muraille.
50 minutes without intermission.

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