THE BIRTHDAY PARTY by Harold Pinter, directed by Scott Moore, with Martin McNenley, Richard Trevor-Williams, Jane Elizabeth McGregor, Lil Malinich, Rob Trick and Erik LeGendre. Presented by Rhino Productions at the Alumnae Studio Theatre (26 Berkeley). Runs to September 18, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Saturday 2 pm. $15, stu/srs $12. 416-532-9611. Rating: NN Rating: NN
There's not much to celebrate about The Birthday Party , Rhino Productions' uninspired take on Harold Pinter 's first full-length play.
Set at a seaside boarding house run by middle-aged couple Meg ( Jane Elizabeth McGregor ) and Petey ( Richard Trevor-Williams ), the enigmatic, suggestive script toys with our sympathies. Sole boarder Stanley ( Martin McNenly ), an unemployed pianist, comes unhinged after the surprise appearance of two guests, Goldberg (director Scott Moore , filling in for actor Rob Trick ) and McCann ( Erik LeGendre ).
It's a psychological mystery, full of menace, dark humour and lots of questions. Is Stanley really the couple's son? Who exactly are the guests? Why are they after Stanley?
Partly because of the actor substitution, there's a stop-and-start feel to the production, making it at times Scenes From Pinter rather than a full play. The pacing and acting are uneven, and the first half feels endless, mostly because Moore has decided to present the play in two rather than three acts.
At its best, the production reminds us of Pinter's dark humour. At its worst, it shows how opaque and vague badly done Pinter can be.