Skip to main content

Review: A pint of Pinter.

Does it kind of hurt you, too, that that doesn't rhyme? Yeah, me neither. Yup. Totally.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see two plays by Harold Pinter--The Lover and The Collection--put on by the Shakespeare Theatre Company, and it was a pretty damn great experience. Overall.

A caveat before digging in: These were my first Pinter plays in performance. I've only really ever read him before, although I did once perform a scene from Betrayal for a class. (I was, of course, spectacular in the role.) So it's hard, then, for me to speak much to Pinter as a whole or to how these plays and their staging that particular night stack up. But I'll do what I can.

What I like about Pinter is how twisty and intellectual he is. He's not necessarily intellectual in the way Tom Stoppard is, to be sure, but there's something almost... mathematical about him, or so it's seemed to me.

Take Betrayal, for example. There's something almost clockwork about how it unwinds. It's not, however, inhuman. It at least reads with feeling, by my estimation. Tell me, are you looking forward to our trip to Torcello? In that play, he balanced a sort of politics with passion in a way I couldn't quite put my finger on.

Watching The Lover and The Collection, I saw some of that and was reminded of something my professor had said about Pinter (and was probably plagiarized rudely by the show's program): It's about who's in control at each point in any scene. I think that tells part of the Pinter story, but not all of it; it accounts for a mechanism but not the motion.

Something about these plays, though, seemed off. I think it's because they lacked a balance of those politics and passion elements I saw in Betrayal: all politics, here, with no passion or too little.

The control thing was quite apparent, even flaunted, in these plays, like seams that hadn't been sewn in quite right. Given these were earlier plays, it's arguable he hadn't yet gotten the balance right. Furthermore--or perhaps because of the bare mechanism grinding its gears for all to see--the characters didn't feel quite real; a bit stilted, stale; unresonant: They felt more like figures in a diorama than people with lives and hearts.

That being said, the plays were hardly unenjoyable or uninteresting; Pinter's intellectualism was as engaging as ever. The Lover was a fascinating exploration of passion gone sideways and wayward, as confused by itself as ignited; it was a twisty journey of parlaying the truth with hurt spite through the interstices of love (or...?). The Collection was a fabulous epistemological conflation of passion and reality--but could it...?--denying its own truth, if I will permit the baldly postmodernist interpretation, immediately both explicitly and implicitly.

But, then, I am an English major. Yet I am also a philosopher, so I have to ask: Were they good plays? Well, that's a bit tougher than spewing literary criticism--and not just because it's hard to define a "good play." I did enjoy the experience; I enjoy going to the theatre--even if the play is terrible--but this occasion was something more than that admittedly low bar.

I've seen better, to be sure, but these were well-constructed plays. They more or less successfully conveyed and arguably achieved their respective thrusts in an interesting way that left me thinking. I may not have been as enthralled by the performance as I have been by other plays I've attended, but this is an important, if vague, criterion.

I saw a play once that struggled to convey its thrust, nevermind achieve an exploration of and argument for it. While it also left me thinking, it was more a case of preoccupation with its flaws than consideration of its messages. It wasn't until nearly a year later that I really appreciated its message, but not by virtue of the play's execution. Such a play is an awful play; these were not awful plays.


Other things that might interest you...

This moment: A tattoo.

So I read Mrs. Dalloway in high school, and it was perhaps the most beautiful thing I'd ever read. One passage in particular, very early in the book, hit me hard with my first experience of the sublime, and stayed with me—and led at last to my first tattoo.
In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.  (Emphasis added; full paragraph included below. From the full text of the novel as made available by the University of Adelaide.)

The paragraph this is from, the 4th paragraph of the novel, is the 1st passage with the stream of consciousness the book is famous for; although self-limited here, the flow is no less gorgeous. In the passage, Clarissa is walking on a street to get those famous flowers herse…

Losing Doolittle.

I recently got to spend a few days at the lake house my family used to visit through most of my childhood; we no longer own it, and it turns out I missed it more deeply than I realized.

Anthony and I both got the week before NYC Pride off this year, so I contrived to get us a little time there. The cousins who own Greenshore gave Anthony and me permission to relax there for several days rather than just the 1 or 2 I had expected. Good god, I'm grateful for that.

I missed this place. Standing on the balcony, the porch, or the dock and looking out over the lake, I was reminded of the beauty and tranquility this lake represents for me. The meaning and memories, too.

This was always a place of solace and stability for me. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, but we always came back to this place. It had been in our family for generations before I was even born—if we'd been able to keep it, it would have been a solid 4 generations including mine. This was where I figured out I w…

Sarracenia 'Palmerpink.'

So I posted the other day about my rekindled carnivorous plant obsession—I mean, hobby. I mentioned, in passing, that I had "discovered" a possible cultivar, so here's the lowdown on what that means and what I meant.

The term "cultivar" is short for "cultivated variety," and signifies that a particular plant is so desirable and interesting that people want exact copies of it rather than simply seed from it. Some famous American pitcher plant (Sarracenia) cultivars include the legendary Adrian Slack, the massive Leah Wilkerson, and the classic Judith Hindle.

Part of how these come about is that, unlike horses x donkeys = mules and certain other hybrids, Sarracenia hybrids aren't sterile and can be crossed and recrossed without limit. Further, random chance can create crazy combinations of genes such that even hybrids between the same species—heck, even the same parents—can demonstrate quite the variety. More on that elsewhere.

Depending on how easy…