THE CARETAKER by Harold Pinter, directed by Albert Schultz (Soulpepper). At the Young Centre (55 Mill). To November 25. $29-$54, stu $25, rush $18 or $5 (21 and under). 416-866-8666. See Continuing, page 134. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Soulpepper's caretaker needs better supervision.
Harold Pinter 's 1960 drama, one of his early successes, introduces us to Aston and Mick, brothers who don't always see eye to eye, and Davies, an old reprobate Aston saves from a brawl and brings home.
Tensions among the three escalate in that dangerous, often unspoken, subtextual Pinterish fashion, and alliances shift frequently, with two of the figures ganging up on the third.
In Lorenzo Savoini 's splendid attic set of flotsam and jetsam (the show is done in the round, with the audience surrounding the action) the cast slowly builds characters with identifiable quirks.
Damien Atkins 's Aston is a nervous, ingratiating accommodator, wanting company but seemingly ready to become tearful if he hears a harsh word. Matthew Edison 's leather-jacketed Mick is the streetwise, manipulative sib with a touch of creepy menace; his smile as he attacks Davies has no warmth.
As Davies, Diego Matamoros begins on a Falstaffian note, creating a lazy, self-aggrandizing blowhard who nonetheless addresses the two younger men as "mister."
But there's not a lot of emotion underlying the relationships, and the reason is Albert Schultz 's direction, which doesn't involve the audience in the action.
The sometimes contradictory, quickly changing feelings that lurk beneath the dialogue are mostly lost.
The problem is especially noticeable in Aston's revelatory monologue at the end of act two, in which Schultz has given Atkins too little support in what should be one of the play's most moving speeches.
It's not until the third act that these talented actors really connect on stage, as the brothers attempt some sort of rapprochement and Davies, who starts the act as a self-satisfied figure in a smoking jacket, degenerates into a toothless old dog willing to take any scrap thrown his way.