Showing posts with label A Celebration of Harold Pinter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A Celebration of Harold Pinter. Show all posts

Sunday, February 10, 2013

TONIGHT ONLY-Julian Sands, A Celebration of Harold Pinter at Steppenwolf #Review

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." 

At a sleepy seaside boarding house in England, the humdrum routine of corn flakes, newspapers and naps is interrupted by the appearance of two mysterious strangers. They become guests at longtime tenant Stanley's surprise birthday party which, after a few glasses of whiskey, party games and a mysterious blackout, turns into a deliciously impalpable nightmare. As excuses and alliances hastily shift, so does the truth in Harold Pinter's riveting dark-comic masterpiece. 

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.

Monday, January 7, 2013




Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble member Austin Pendleton directs The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter in the Upstairs Theatre, at the helm of a Pinter play for the first time. The theater has been newly reconfigured by Pendleton with scenic designer Walt Spangler to bring the audience closer to the story by moving the stage to the center of the room. The Birthday Party begins previews January 24 (Opening night is February 3, 2013) and runs through April 28 in Steppenwolf’s Upstairs Theatre (1650 N Halsted St). Tickets ($20 – $78) are on sale now.

In conjunction with The Birthday Party, Steppenwolf is proud to announce a one-night only performance of A Celebration of Harold Pinter, performed by British actor Julian Sands, directed by ensemble member John Malkovich!
With personal anecdotes and reflections drawn from his work with Pinter, Sands combines Pinter’s poems and prose to create a fresh and intimate insight into the Nobel laureate’s literary legacy. A Celebration of Harold Pinter is February 10 at 7:30pm in the Downstairs Theatre (1650 N Halsted St). Tickets ($25) are on sale now.
Actor Julian Sands, best known for the films A Room With a View and The Killing Fields, was a longtime friend of the playwright. A few years before his death, Pinter requested that Sands fill in for him at a poetry reading when he was too ill to go on. The experience ultimately inspired this production, which debuted in 2011 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in homage to Pinter, who died in 2008. The production toured through Britain and was presented in San Francisco, Los Angeles and to sold-out audiences in New York City, with Backstage calling it “mandatory viewing for devotees of the actor and certainly ‘the defining dramatist of the 20th century’...this one-man show fondly reveals an engaging and at times vulnerable side of the famously prickly playwright.”

“I think the extraordinary accomplishment in Pinter's work is his mastery of language, which is so precise and so, at the same time, ambiguous and unlikely. We are constantly being asked to interpret the truth and to be aware of how language both defines and obscures the real,” comments Artistic Director Martha Lavey. “I look forward to the discussions that The Birthday Party will provoke. It is very funny, very human and theatrically gratifying.”

The Birthday Party takes place at a sleepy seaside boarding house in England, where the humdrum routine of corn flakes, newspapers and naps is interrupted by the appearance of two menacing strangers. They become guests at longtime tenant Stanley’s surprise birthday party which, after a few glasses of whiskey, party games and a mysterious blackout, turns into a deliciously impalpable nightmare. As excuses and alliances hastily shift, so does the truth in Harold Pinter’s riveting dark-comic masterpiece.

The cast of The Birthday Party features ensemble members Ian Barford as Stanley, Francis Guinan as Goldberg, Moira Harris as Meg and John Mahoney as Petey, with Marc Grapey as McCann and Sophia Sinise as Lulu. The production team includes: Walt Spangler (scenic design), Rachel Anne Healy (costume design), Keith Parham (lighting design) and Josh Schmidt (sound design and original music). Additional credits include: Erica Daniels (casting), Matt Hawkins (fight choreographer),Cecilie O’Reilly (dialect coach), Deb Styer (stage manager), Kathleen Petroziello (assistant stage manager) and James D. Palmer (assistant director). Photos and bio information for all artists are available upon request.

Tickets to The Birthday Party ($20 – $78) and A Celebration of Harold Pinter ($25) are currently on sale through Audience Services (1650 N Halsted St), 312-335-1650 and steppenwolf.org20 for $20: twenty $20 tickets are available for The Birthday Party through Audience Services beginning at 11am on the day of each performance (1pm for Sunday performances). 

Rush Tickets: rush tickets are available one hour before each show. Student Discounts: a limited number of $15 student tickets are available online using promo code “BIRTHDAY15” or “SANDS15”. Limit 2 tickets per student; must present a valid student ID for each ticket. For additional student discounts, visit

Group Tickets: all groups of 10 or more receive a discounted rate for any performance throughout the season. For additional information, visit

Free post-show discussions are offered after every performance in the Subscription Season. Steppenwolf is located near all forms of public transportation and is wheelchair accessible. Street and lot parking are available. Assistive listening devices and large-print programs are available for every performance.

Accessible Performances:
terpreted performance: March 31 at 7:30pm
Audio-described performance and touch tour: April 14 at 1:30pm (3pm performance)
Open captioned performance: April 27 at 3pm

The Birthday Party is supported by ComEd, the Official 2012/13 Season Lighting Sponsor.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is America’s longest standing, most distinguished ensemble theater, producing nearly 700 performances and events annually in its three Chicago theater spaces—the 515-seat Downstairs Theatre, the 299-seat Upstairs Theatre and the 80-seat Garage Theatre. Formed in 1976 by a collective of actors, Steppenwolf has grown into an ensemble of 43 actors, writers and directors. Artistic programming at Steppenwolf includes a five-play Subscription Season, a two-play Steppenwolf for Young Adults season and three repertory series: First Look Repertory of New Work, Garage Rep and Next Up. While firmly grounded in the Chicago community, nearly 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success both nationally and internationally, including Off-Broadway, Broadway, London, Sydney and Dublin. Steppenwolf has the distinction of being the only theater to receive the National Medal of Arts, in addition to numerous other prestigious honors including an Illinois Arts Legend Award and nine Tony Awards. Martha Lavey is the Artistic Director and David Hawkanson is the Executive Director. Nora Daley is Chair of Steppenwolf’s Board of Trustees. For additional information, visit and

Currently on stage is The Motherf**ker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis, directed by ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro (through March 3, 2013) in the Downstairs Theatre. The 2012/13 Subscription Season also includes Head of Passes by ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney, directed by ensemble member Tina Landau (April 4 – June 9, 2013) in the Downstairs Theatre; and Belleville by Amy Herzog, directed by Anne Kauffman (June 27 – August 25, 2013) in the Downstairs Theatre.

Google Analytics