THE LOVER By Harold Pinter, directed by James Wallis and Melanie Easton (Bleecker Street Theatre Company). At Giggleshorts (296 Brunswick). To March 29. Pwyc-$15. 416-895-0401. Rating: NNN
Harold Pinter’s plays have been called “comedies of menace,” and the tag certainly fits directors James Wallis and Melanie Easton’s interpretation of The Lover, the British Nobel laureate’s well-known 1962 play.
Berkshire housewife Sarah (Nola Martin) and husband, Richard (Kevin Walker), seem to have reached a bizarre place in their marriage. In the opening scene, Sarah teases Richard with descriptions of the lover she receives daily for tea – a fact the drippy Richard accepts with “sure, walk all over me, why don’t you” resignation.
This is Pinter, so the weird relationship takes further twists and turns. When Walker comes to the door in the role of Max, Sarah’s lover, we’re pretty certain that this is Richard play-acting and that the two are engaging in a role-play to spice up their marriage. Or are they?
Whether Walker is playing two distinct characters or a man who is using role-play to both satisfy and insult his wife is something the directors never make explicitly clear.
Luckily, we’re left little time to ponder the problem. Both actors bring enough hostility and humour to their roles to keep us engaged, and Wallis and Easton keep the couple’s wicked games razor-sharp.
Preening and seductive, Martin mesmerizes in the role of Sarah. Walker keeps pace with her in the role of the husband, even if his sexy Max isn’t quite as effective.
Akiva Romer-Segal’s set has something of the murder mystery about it, right down to the white linen tablecloth and the landscape painting on the wall. It playfully echoes the theatricality of the game Sarah and Richard engage in.
Simple lighting cues divide the psychic spaces the couple have created inside and outside their marriage. Daylight sets the stage for their “extramarital romps,” while their commonplace exchanges take place at night.