BWW Reviews: PinterÂ's THE DUMB WAITER and CELEBRATION Bring Intrigue and Honest Hilarity to ACT
No tricks, no flash, no exploding video walls or gaudy production numbers. Just an ensemble of some of Seattle's most gifted actors brilliantly savoring the meaty dialogue of Harold Pinter. That's how ACT started off their Pinter Festival last night with their productions of "The Dumb Waiter" and "Celebration". Just outstanding storytelling and plain great theater.
We start off the evening with "The Dumb Waiter" with two men, Gus and Ben (Darragh Kennan and Charles Leggett), in a rundown basement obviously waiting for something. But what? That's the information that Pinter doles out bit by bit revealing the nefarious job these two men have to accomplish. And along the way we are gifted with glorious dialogue and Pinter's signature pauses that sometimes tell more than the words. Follow that up with the much lighter "Celebration" as three couples gather for dinner to celebrate, Two older couples (Anne Allgood, Julie Briskman, Frank Corrado and RAndy Moore) celebrating an Anniversary and one younger couple (Jeffrey Frace and Mariel Neto) a promotion. But as the wine flows so do their tongues and the result is a delectable meal of secrets and laughter.
Director John Langs has once again identified himself as a consummate storyteller as he guides these amazing players through their respective worlds. He manages a perfect pace for each story and whether he has 2 or 11 people on stage never once lets the flow or action get bogged down or stale. But then I would expect nothing less from the genius who gave us the brilliant "Hamlet" a few years back. And that flow is only complimented by the ingeniously practical set from Robert Dahlstrom and scintillating lighting from Rick Paulsen.
Kennan and Leggett have incredible chemistry together in Act One. With Kennan's likable everyman and Leggett's blustering authority they bring a kind of Laurel and Hardy feel to the characters. That is if Laurel and Hardy were … oops, don't want to give it away. But the two keep the intrigue going even as they try to do something as simple as make tea. And Kennan also brings some hilarious "interjections" to Act Two with his Waiter who just wants to join in the conversation. Even as he's being chased back into the kitchen by the wonderful Peter Crook and Cheyenne Casebier as his complex and layered superiors, he never loses that desperation to be included. But it's the three couples who make the show as their subtle war of gender and class rages throughout the meal. Neto's overt sexuality is coupled perfectly with Frace's reserved longing and the two of them only stoke the fire for the older couples as they switch from blatant vulgarity to uptight civility which only accentuates the facets of their characters. Corrado and Moore are hysterical with their pompous crudeness and are perfect counterparts for Allgood and Briskman and their constant slipping manners. And I have to say I was practically giddy during Allgood's drunken proposition to Crook and thought it couldn't get any funnier only to have Briskman jump in and match the outrageousness note for note.
Pinter's work is so rich and full and I'm so happy to see a local theater recognize that with an entire festival dedicated to him. And this evening of one acts is the perfect jumping off point for what I hope will be a glorious addition to a beautiful Seattle Summer. But I can say for this production in particular, you don't want to miss it.
"The Dumb Waiter" and "Celebration" perform at ACT through August 26th. For tickets or information contact the ACT box office at 206-292-7676 or visit them online at www.acttheatre.org.
Photo credit: Chris Bennion