“Is your lover coming home today? Will he be staying long?” asks Adam Litle ’03 in Harold Pinter’s “The Lover”.
The Ezra Stiles Little Theater came alive with the screaming of an enraged husband, the groans of ecstasy of an unfaithful wife, and the whispers of a lover. Aaron Goldhamer ’03 has finely directed this “triangular relationship” play.
The plot revolves around Sarah, played by Moriah Brier ’04, who is married to Richard. Litle plays both Richard and Sarah’s lover, Max, which adds to the general sense of confusion into which the audience is plunged.
Richard knows about Sarah’s adultery, and even graciously chooses to come home later so that she can be with Max. There is a strange, icy politeness between the two, even as Richard questions Sarah about her afternoon trysts. Eventually, Richard tells Sarah that he is “well acquainted with a whore” himself.
After Richard has left for work one day, Max arrives for the afternoon rendezvous. There is little dialogue between the two lovers, but much role-playing. At one point, a set of bongo drums even crops up. After a tug of war, in which she first denies him, and then he denies her, Max announces that “it’s time for tea”. This culminates in, well, you know– Afterward, Max states that he wants to end the relationship on the grounds that Sarah is “all skin and bones.” Once he has left, Richard returns and forbids her lover to return to the house. The play ends with the conflict seemingly resolved. (Let’s just say, watch out for that banana peel that Pinter has dropped.)
Goldhamer’s production cleanly highlights how the intricate web of betrayals has reduced the world to an ashen lie. The play flows beautifully, with the scenes succeeding each other in a series of dramatic blackouts. That is the only use of lighting, but its simplicity achieves the desired effect. There are moments when the small talk between the characters suddenly falls on one’s ears like thunderbolts, and there are disclosures that evoke pity and disbelief.
Pinter, born in 1930, is an English playwright, known for his so-called comedies of menace, which humorously and cynically depict people attempting to communicate as they react to an invasion or threat of an invasion of their lives. He is also noted for his unique use of dialogue, which exposes his characters’ alienation from each other and explores the layers of meaning produced by pauses and silence. In “The Lover,” he knows every side of the husband-wife-lover triangle: the economies with the truth, the peculiar obsessions, the charming delusions, the haunting memories, the endless ironies, the multiple betrayals.
Both Brier and Litle shone on the stage, playing classic Pinter archetypes. The sheer strength of their acting brought the simple set to life. Brier, in particular, had great body language and expression, and her presentation was very convincing. Goldhamer himself even made a brief appearance as the milkman.
The language of this play is spare and simple; the states of mind on display confused, shifting and elusive. It seems that every line expresses pain, regret, anger, alarm, desire, remorse or some blend of those emotions. Plays that express so much by saying so little are few and far between.
Oh, and make sure to watch out for that banana peel.