Friday, August 3, 2007

Beckett via Pinter via Tuggle

Posted by Bruce Miller
A couple people lately have said, “I liked your review of Henry IV (or Little Shop, Austin’s Bridge, This Is Our Youth etc etc). I appreciate their gracious comment, and so I thank them before quickly adding that I don’t write reviews. I understand the confusion and know that I’m responsible for it. So let me explain.

I write cheers, toasts and compliments, but I don’t write reviews. I’d be a lousy critic. I’ve found things to admire, but I’ve never honestly enjoyed a production of Annie, Cats, Joseph / Dreamcoat, and Nunsense. On the other end of the spectrum, I seem to always walk away cold from anything by Strindberg, Gorky’s The Lower Depths, and most Mamet. Need I say more? I’d be a terrible critic.

But almost every time I go to the theatre, there’s something that gets me excited. I love going, and watching, and talking about it afterward. Theatre is in my life blood, and so I’m happy to talk about those things in any given production that make me happy. I’m aware that the position I’m blessed to hold has certain responsibilities, and one of those responsibilities is being a cheerleader for all of Metro Richmond’s theatres. It’s a responsibility I take seriously and enjoy. It's one of the reasons that this blog exists.

So, here’s what I loved about The Dumb Waiter, which I saw last night at the Little Theatre at Theatre IV.

I loved revisiting Harold Pinter. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, and is generally considered the finest and most influential British playwright of the latter half of the 20th Century. In world opinion, he comes out ahead of Alan Ayckbourn, Michael Frayn, David Hare, John Osborne, Tom Stoppard and the other greats--although, if I were Pinter, I'd be looking over my shoulder for Stoppard.

I first encountered Pinter in college when Jack Welsh directed a studio production of The Lover starring Bev Appleton and Mary Atkins. I had the privilege of running the light board. I thought the show was GREAT!

Far more recently, Phil and I sat in the front row for a revival of Betrayal in London that knocked our socks off.

The Dumb Waiter is early Pinter. He was clearly connected with and influenced by Samuel Beckett in those days, and The Dumb Waiter is in many ways an homage to Waiting for Godot and Endgame. At least that’s the way it seemed to me—two existential killers waiting for instructions from a faceless master who never appears, bouncing around in a featureless landscape and exploring the master/servant aspects of their own relationship.

I loved experiencing Pinter again, and The Dumb Waiter for the first time, remembering the intellectual thrill of exploring the various themes presented by the great playwright, not only during the 45 minutes that the show was going on, but also during the ride home and long after.

I loved seeing again the crisp, boyish charm and intelligence that David Janeski brings to every role. I’m sure David is sick of hearing the word “boyish,” but that innocence and freshness inhabits everything he does. Trade on it, David; it works for you.

I loved seeing, for the first time, the talented Carl Calabrese—a new actor on the Richmond theatre scene. Sturdy, handsome young men are often what we see the fewest of in casting calls, and Carl should find lots of opportunities to share his talents with the Richmond audience. Welcome!

Most of all, I loved seeing the fluid, impassioned direction of Brad Tuggle, who clearly loves this project as much as he loves his emerging role in the Richmond theatre scene. It is the youthful energy, developing talent and mature commitment that come from the Brad Tuggles, Chase Kniffens and Alex Previteras of the world that keeps Richmond theatre at the top of its game.

I recommend this energized, 45-minute, $5 production to anyone who cares about world literature, Richmond theatre, or the unique passions of young men. Open your mind; challenge your intellect. Run, don’t walk, to the box office today!

--Bruce Miller

For The Dumb Waiter dates and ticket information, click here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A true testament to the strength of Richmond theatre when young directors get a chance to exercise their craft. One can only hope it continues, as that is the only way we'll get our great directors of tomorrow.