Two Plays of Power and Games by Harold Pinter

Off  Broadway West is proud to present two one act plays from the acclaimed playwright Harold Pinter. Two of his most famous one acts: The Dumb Waiter and The Lover offer up a night of intellectual as well as sexual provocation.

The Dumb Waiter, written in 1957, is one of Pinter's  more exemplary plays enticing audiences with the language (Lower Manchester) and inherent tensions built into human relationships. Ben (Shane Fahy) and Gus (Conor Hamill) are hit men who are holed up in a dingy basement kitchen, waiting to be sent out on their next job.  From the start, we recognize that Gus is the more senior of the two.  

When the play begins Gus and Ben are lying on their respective beds--Gus reading the newspaper and Ben seemingly asleep.  When he gets up, Ben starts to put on his shoes tying the knots meticulously.  While reading the newspaper aloud, Ben is repeatedly interrupted by Gus.  We realize that Gus is not entirely comfortable with his line of work.  Their conversation is suddenly interrupted when an envelope is mysteriously pushed under the door. Then the dumb waiter (a small elevator used to bring food up from the kitchen below) suddenly slams down. When the hit men explore the inside, they find an order for a meal.  Bewildered yet anxious to act, they send up the few morsels of food that Gus brought with him.  More orders strangely follow changing from typical English dishes to more exotic ones.  As the orders come in, the tension between the two hit men mounts leading to physical conflict as Ben almost strangles Gus.   Director Durand Garcia's production mixes off-beat comedy with something more menacing.

Because the dumb waiter is centered in the upstage back wall, most of the action is played upstage. It would be better to open up the action and find times to bring the actors downstage.  The dialogue was difficult to understand because of the excellent lower-class Manchester accents.  

The Lover, written in 1962, is Pinter's treatise on sexual desire breaking through the confines of middle-class convention. Outside London, a married couple, Sarah (Nicole Helfer) and Richard (Chad Stender) play out a scintillating game. This couple spices up their marriage by pretending to be adulterous lovers in the afternoon. The husband pretends to go off to work as a respectable businessman and returns as a lover while his wife puts on her sexy black dress and high heels and acts like a whore.  The only problem is that role playing games can often get out of hand and here they lead to unexpected conflict.  Nicole Helfer and Chad Stender handle this difficult material, both competently and confidently.  Their performances are very entertaining. The Lover is sensitively directed by Cecilia Palmtag.  

This double bill from Off Broadway West runs through March 26, 2011 at the Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason St. (between Geary and Post), Suite 601 in San Francisco. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. For reservations call 800-838-3006 or go on line at
Flora Lynn Isaacson