ChiIL Live Shows will be there....will YOU?! There are a limited number of tickets still available for A Celebration of Harold Pinter, performed by British actor Julian Sands, directed by ensemble member John Malkovich on February 10 at 7:30pm in the Downstairs Theatre (1650 N Halsted St). This is a one-night-only engagement.
Click here to order your tickets for tonight's performance and for Steppenwolf’s current production of Pinter’s The Birthday Party .
I've been a fan of Nobel laureate Harold Pinter's work since I was first introduced to his plays in college in the 80's. His witty word play and power dynamics on stage are compelling. We checked out opening day of The Birthday Party, and kudos to Steppenwolf for presenting such a challenging work.
The Birthday Party was reviled and misunderstood by critics when it was first produced, and it's still a mind bending, dialogue heavy piece without closure. Virtually every statement is contradicted and the audience is left bewildered and unsure who is sane and who insane. Who is lying or lied to? Even the on stage action remains unclear. Despite a fantastic cast and excellent directing, there were audience members nodding off. Critics took full advantage of the two intermissions to chug coffee, running Steppenwolf's concessions completely out of both coffee and cream! In the elevator, after the show, one critic declared it a two martini play, and said he was heading for a drink, ASAP. That said, it's Pinter's first work, and an intriguing dark comedy worth another look.
We dig this excerpt from WSWS below:
Set in a seaside boarding house run by a childless couple, a lodger (Stanley) is confronted by two outsiders (Goldberg and McCann). They terrorise him, interrogate him and eventually take him away. It is never stated who or what they represent. The play has been described as a repertory thriller written by someone who had read Kafka, but this is not a paranoid Cold War period piece. The play is clear and unambiguous, with taut, spare dialogue. In a world of political anxieties, Pinter's play represents a confused world in the clearest possible way.
This is directly linked with his knowledge of earlier dramatists. In an early essay on Shakespeare, he wrote that he "amputates, deadens, aggravates at will, within the limits of a particular piece, but he will not pronounce judgment or cure." It is this same quality that makes Pinter's plays so understandable, and thus so terrifying.
The Hammersmith run of The Birthday Party was a disaster. The critics were hostile, and the play had closed before its one good review, by the influential Harold Hobson, was published in The Sunday Times, although that played a greater part in securing Pinter's future than the cancelled run. Over the next two years Pinter worked on a revival of the play and a television adaptation, as well as directing London premieres of The Room and The Dumb Waiter.
He also wrote revue sketches and a radio play, as well as other plays. Most importantly, he did not abandon his vision of theatrical writing. Trusting to the necessity of artistic expression he continued to "take a chance on the audience." As he said later, he gave the audience not what they wanted, but what he insisted on giving them. In The Birthday Party, when Stanley is being taken away, Petey cries out, "Stan, don't let them tell you what to do." Pinter called this line "the most important ... I've ever written."
Harold Pinter was a director, actor and one of the most influential modern British dramatists, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005. His celebrated, ultimately undefinable classic The Birthday Party derives its power from Pinter's brilliantly mysterious yet comic riff on the absurd terrors of the everyday.
Check out ChiIL Live Show's past coverage, including show details, for The Birthday Party and for A Celebration of Harold Pinter here. Click here for our review of The Motherf**ker With the Hat, highly recommended and also now playing at Steppenwolf.