PINTER AND PIRANDELLO directed by Levon Haftvan, with Brenda Bazinet and John Evans. Presented by Lemaz Productions at Artword (75 Portland). Runs to March 6, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $25, Sunday pwyc. 416-366-7723 ext 290. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
A couple's romantic problems can blossom in various directions, as we see in the double bill of Luigi Pirandello 's I'm Dreaming, But Am I? and Harold Pinter 's The Lover . As theatre, however, the two shows, directed by Levon Haftvan , aren't equally appealing.
In the Pirandello, a woman ( Brenda Bazinet ) feels guilty about her lessening affection for her partner ( John Evans ). First in a dream sequence and later in waking mode, she deals with those feelings. In typical dream fashion, though, as one episode melts disjointedly into another, she has less control of the situation than she'd like.
Haftvan works hard to evoke the nightmare qualities of the play's first half, but Evans isn't menacing enough, nor are the script's arguments about what's real and what's not - typical Pirandello - clearly displayed. Bazinet's woman is suitably unsettled in the first part, quietly manipulative in the second.
Far better is The Lover, an elegant series of games played by a couple whose relationship has become stale after 10 years of marriage. There's almost a surface sitcom brightness to the start, where it's established that she's taken a lover and he has a mistress - no one important, he argues, just something on the side.
He tries to engage her in details, get some kind of rise from her, but she stays coolly neutral. There are a few more surprises when the lover shows up.
Since Pinter's intentionally open-ended dialogue includes veiled threats and ironic humour, the script can bear several interpretations, and the actors and director deliver most of the emotional and dramatic goods. Power shifts back and forth, as does the role-playing that's central to the show, with Bazinet more nuanced and Evans more stolid until he turns dangerous near the end. But maybe that stolid quality is part of yet another game as the stakes are raised and new gambits begun.
The design is also a plus: Behzad Adineh 's set of shifting blinds mirror the shifting action onstage, and Trevor Schwellnus 's lighting gives us a sense of different worlds. It's a great example of theatrical elegance on an indie budget.
Too bad about the order, though. The stronger Pinter leads, while the brief, lesser Pirandello closes the evening. Maybe the lengthy set change necessitates the choice of what comes first, but it means the production ends on a weak note.