BWW Review: THE DUMB WAITER at West End Productions
The Dumb Waiter, a one-act play by Harold Pinter, revolves around two hitmen, Ben and Gus, who are waiting in a basement for their next assignment. As the two men wait to hear about their assignment they bicker and argue about a variety of things. Ben becomes increasingly agitated over time, and Gus' questions to Ben become almost constant and nearly nonsensical. Adding to the stress of the two men's dynamic is a dumbwaiter in the back of the room that delivers occasional food orders, which leaves both of the hitmen confused as the basement is not outfitted as a restaurant kitchen. The tension builds throughout the 55 minutes of the play, culminating in a life-or-death situation as the lights fade to black, leaving the audience to wonder what happened next.
According to director Joe Feldman, his production of The Dumb Waiter "makes the audience rear back in disgust but fall in love with characters that are like an old married couple." With the casting of Yanning Morin as Ben and Carl Savering as Gus, getting attached is easy. In a two-person play, the casting can make or break a production and with The Dumb Waiter, the two actors could not have been more perfect for their roles. Morin and Savering's rapport with one another, as well as their ability to work with the natural rhythm of Pinter's dialogue is superb. Their chemistry as they play off one another, whether bickering over the semantics of "light the kettle" and "put on the kettle" or Ben's exasperation at Gus' dismay at not being able to have tea before they complete the job, is absolutely fantastic. This rapport brings the audience into the two men's world as they wait in the basement, allowing everyone to feel the buildup and tension in every way possible. Morin is stellar as Ben, expressing the character's simmering anger resting just underneath the surface that increases as the play rushes towards its conclusion. Savering is endearing as Gus. The audience cares about his plight despite his profession as Gus questions the details of what they do as hitmen and expresses his desire for normalcy whether it's having a cup of tea or going to a football match after their job is over. Both actors manage to take a difficult play and create characters with depth, all the while making it seem effortless.
The direction by Feldman is superb as well, infusing each moment of the production with suspense right up until the ending and emphasizing the claustrophobic feeling of the basement. From the beginning of the play, Feldman ensured that the audience felt, "something was happening right away," and pulled them into the scene unfolding onstage. The lighting by Riley Lewis emphasized the confinement of space as well, with the actors cast in shadows or natural light rather than purely stage lights. The uncertainty of The Dumb Waiter, as well as the multitude of contradictions present in the play, is displayed without answering any questions. It allows the audience to come to their own conclusions. The way that the cast and crew of the production manage to pull this off is definitely theater at its finest.
The Dumb Waiter runs from March 6, 2020 to March 22, 2020 at North 4th Art Center. Fridays and Saturday showings are at 7:30 pm, with a matinee Sundays at 2:00 pm. The one-act play has no intermission. Tickets can be purchased at www.westendproductions.org or by calling (505) 404-8462.
Photo Credit: Russell Maynor