By Diana Saenger
Nobel Prize-winning playwright, screenwriter, director and actor Harold Pinter (1930-2008) was one of Great Britain’s most influential modern dramatists. His work spanned more than 50 years and included the popular “The Homecoming” (1964) and “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” (1981).
North Coast Repertory Theatre Artistic Director David Ellenstein will direct “Two By Pinter: The Lover and The Dumb Waiter,” bringing these one-acts to the stage through June 17.
“I fell in love with them as a young man and now, older, I find they have more impact, and I respect them even more,” Ellenstein said. “Pinter’s work is so smart and twisted in its understanding of how the human mind and human behavior works; it’s off-putting and dangerous while also being extremely funny.”
“The Lover” (1962) has been labeled “a sexy drama on one hand and an iconic comedy on the other.” Pinter leads the audience to believe that there are three characters in the play: the wife, the husband and the lover. But the lover who comes to call in the afternoons is revealed to be the husband adopting a role.
“The Dumb Waiter” (2005) unveils the relationship of two hitmen trying to pass the time while waiting for their next job. As they busy themselves, they become perplexed by a dumbwaiter in the room that delivers unordered food. Called a “comedy of menace,” it has several unexpected twists.
Staging two distinctly different dramas is a feat in itself: The sets must be swapped out during intermission. “Marty Burnett, our wizard, has figured out how the one set folds in upon itself so it goes from being an upper-class Windsor cottage to a run-down basement,” boasted Ellenstein.
The cast of “The Lover” includes Mark Pinter (no relation to the playwright) as Richard, and Elaine Rivkin as Sarah, the milkman’s role goes to Richard Baird.
The cast of “The Dumb Waiter” features Frank Corrado as Ben and Richard Baird as Gus.
Ellenstein said he worked with Mark Pinter for many years, most recently in NCRT’s “The Lion in Winter,” and “Becky’s New Car.”
“He also has quite an illustrious television career,” Ellenstein said. “He’s great in ‘The Lover.’ Elaine is from Chicago and making her first appearance with us. She’s fabulous, and I hope to work with her many more times.”
This is Baird’s ninth show at NCRT, and he’s playing opposite Frank Pinter.
“Frank is a Pinter expert who produces the ‘Pinter Fortnightly’ series in Seattle,” Ellenstein said. “In 2010, he was awarded the William and Eva Fox Foundation Fellowship for Distinguished Achievement by the Theatre Communications Group, and he’ll work on four Pinter plays to be produced in Seattle this summer.
“He’s also friends with Henry Wolfe, one of Pinter’s childhood friends, so if we had questions about anything, Frank just called him and Henry would tell us Pinter’s perspective from the original production.”