"The Caretaker" (Writers Theatre): Sublime Cast Fills The Room

"The Caretaker" (Writers Theatre):  Sublime Cast Fills The Room

In my old apartment in Chicago, Carlos was The Man.  He took care of people.  When my neighbors’ fight ended with the husband’s clothes down the garbage chute, Carlos retrieved them.  When someone ransacked the laundry room, Carlos cleaned it.  When I locked myself out, clogged the drain up, or needed the Christmas tree out, Carlos was there.  He took care of home.  He took care of me.  Knowing he was around, gave me a certain calm.

Writers Theatre presents THE CARETAKER.  Three men.  One very cluttered apartment.  Who is really in charge?  Who is calling the shots?  Who is taking care of whom?  Davies, an old guy, gets fired from his job.  Aston, a young guy, invites him over to his horde-fest home.  The house looks like a basement packed with useless items. Realizing Davies is destitute, Aston shovels off the spare bed and lets him bunk down.  When Aston’s brother Mick arrives, there is trouble!  Is it because Davies is sleeping in Mick’s bed?  Or because Davies is using Aston?  Or because it’s really Mick’s home?  THE CARETAKER fascinates with assigned and assumed roleplaying!

Playwright Harold Pinter created a story about control.  Pinter’s three very distinct characters assert their authority in different ways.  I’m still contemplating the trio’s dynamics beyond the conclusion.  Under the masterful hand of OJ Parson, this cast is sublime.  William J. Norris (Davies) is homeless.  He talks, looks and, I think, smells like the role.  Norris chatters on with delusional dignity and entitlement.  When threatened, Norris attacks with scrappy survival instincts.  Kareem Bandealy (Mick) plays it with menacing intensity.  Bandealy’s edginess makes me continually wonder if he’s super manipulative or certifiably bonkers.  Anish Jethmalani (Ashton) endears with a quiet presence.  Jethmalani’s facial expressions perfectly reflect a man unable to completely express himself.  His soft-spoken revelation is a heartbreaker.  This tri-fecta ensemble does an outstanding job.

All this stellar acting takes place in the dingiest apartment ever. Scenic Designer Jack Magaw creates a household nightmare.  There is crap everywhere.  Not just cluttery knick-knacks, it’s a rusted and grimy assortment of oddities.  Every time one of the guys lays down on the grubby sheets, I get queasy.  Within this house of hoarders, darkness is used very effectively.  Lighting designer Heather Gilbert illuminates the room with a single bulb or the ‘natural daylight’ from the window.  Gilbert also uses prolonged darkness to add to the intrigue and surprise.  I’m never sure who is in the room when the lights go up.  Because of the intimate setting of the theatre, I’m a little panicky that I might scream with an actor’s sudden appearance.  When Norris is stumbling in the darkness, I want to pull out my flashlight.

Pinter and Parson put me in the room with the action.  Magaw and Gilbert make sure the room is uncomfortably disturbing.  Norris, Bandealy and Jethmalani fill the room and my head with ongoing curiosity.  THE CARETAKER cleans up on all levels!

Almost hit in the dark by a thrown pack of matches, Tom describes it with ‘mysterious, moody, menacing.’

Production photography courtesy of Michael Brosilow.

Running Time:  Two hours and twenty minutes includes an intermission

At Books on Vernon, 664 Vernon Avenue, Glencoe

Written by Harold Pinter

Directed by OJ Parson

Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:30pm

Wednesdays at 2pm (11/23, 12/21,1/4, 2/29, 3/21)

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm

Saturdays at 4pm

Sundays at 2pm and 6pm

Thru March 25th

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