Glencoe’s Writers’ Theatre has selected Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker, directed by Ron OJ Parson, for the second show in their 20th anniversary season. They are staging the production in their intimate 50-seat space at 664 Vernon (Books on Vernon) in Glencoe–a near perfect setting for this landmark work.
A compelling trio of talented actors command the stage as they “pause” to “let it happen” while The Caretaker unfolds in typical Pinter fashion. That is to say–comedy dispersed between doses of seemingly everyday actions that can quickly dissipate into the sinister. Few in theater have attained the status of Pinter who has earned his own adjective and theatrical term: “Pinteresque”–that describes “a cryptically mysterious situation imbued with hidden menace.”
The three-act play takes place in a dimly lit, junk-filled room in a rundown area of East London. Aston (Anish Jethmalani), a mentally-challenged man in his mid-twenties, has brought home Davies, a fast-talking old derelict, played masterfully by veteran actor William J. Norris. Aston offers Davies, who has just been fired from his lowly cafe job, a place to stay until he can get back on his feet. When Aston leaves on an errand, Davies is left by himself and begins rummaging through the space looking for loose coins and whatever else he can get his hands on. Enter Mick, played to a tee by Kareem Bandealy. Mick, a volatile, edgy man in his early thirties, is a stark contrast to his younger and more naive brother Mick. He enters the room without Davies knowledge–resulting in an unsettling confrontation between the two men.
It is at this point that Davies realizes that Aston and his brother Mick are very different people and that he can use their differences to his advantage. Initially, Davies is able to pit one brother against the other creating tension lurking behind the outwardly matter-of-fact language. When, at different times, each brother asks Davies if he would like to become “the caretaker” he turns on one brother and befriends the other with an intent to destroy the brothers’ fragile bond.
All three men, although vastly different, are living life, going nowhere. From Aston’s dreams about “projects” he’ll never complete to Mick’s grandiose plans for his apartment building; and Davies references to Sidcup, where he must go to get “his papers” that will change his miserable life–nothing will ever change. No matter how desperately the three strive to connect to one another and the world around them–it’s not going to happen. Aston will never build his shed; Mick’s dreams won’t be realized; and sadly, Davies will never get to Sidcup. These coping mechanisms are typical Pinter themes and resonate with much of human nature, as well.
Set designer Jack Macgaw has used the entirety of Writers’ Theatre’s intimate 50 seat venue at Books on Vernon to create the cluttered apartment belonging to Mick and Aston. Audiences enter the space through the “apartment building’s” hallway, and become a part of the set as the play takes place all around them. The entire Writers’ Theatre team, under the direction of Artistic Director Michael Halberstam and Executive Director Kathryn M. Lipuma with Janice Pytel (costumes), Heather Gilbert (lighting), Michael Griggs (sound) and Nick Heggestad (properties) and stage manager Becky Pechter have put together an exceptionally well orchestrated production of this Twentieth Century classic. Anyone who enjoys theatre will want to see Writers’ Theatre The Caretaker at least once.
Performances run now through March 25, 2012. Curtain times are Tuesday and Wednesdays at 7:30pm; Wednesday matinees at 2:00pm (November 23, December 21, January 4, February 29 and March 21 only); Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00pm; Saturdays at 4:00pm and 8:00pm and Sundays at 2:00pm and 6:00pm (no show December 25 or January 1. No 6:00pm show January 29, March 4 or March 25).
Tickets are $35-$65 and are available at the Box Office, 376 Park Avenue, Glencoe; 847-242-6000 or online at Writers’ Theatre.