June 13, 2009 performance reviewed by Frances Benn Hall
Pinter’s Mirror, now gracing the “easily anywhere” of the Bernstein Theatre at Shakespeare and Co., is a brilliant glittering gem in which three talented actors, Malcolm Ingram, Elizabeth Ingram, long-time company veterans, plus new-comer Stephen Pilkington, and a few mismatched chairs capture the slippery ambiguity, menace, and constant humor of that theatre style so unique that “pinteresque” has become a lower-case word to describe a style otherwise impossible to pin down.
But ambiguous as Pinter’s plays are, full of dark humor, domestic settings riddled with angst and yearnings behind the pauses, gradually the menace builds in plots that are impossible to summarize, but tantalizing in their very obscurity and sudden surprises. All three plays in the evening’s program are set in England in the 1950s but their concerns for us in the audience are still very much with us in the over-complexities of today’s world.
In the opening play, A Slight Ache, the two Ingrams, Brits themselves, bring the the exact tone and accent of the aging couple where tea on the terrace (with a wasp in the marmalade) gradually escalates when a match-seller at the end of the lane brings out in the husband hostilities and in the wife suppressed erotic urges. The gradual menace mounts as we eventually and agonizingly slowly see the match-seller, though never his face. The faces, speeches, and actions of the other two are varied minutely; acting at its subtle best by both.
In “Family Voices,” Pilkington as young wayward naïve son is on one telephone (and all over the stage taking on scenes and characters he describes naively) while his aging mother (Elizabeth Ingram) frets, scolds, advises, and cannot reach him. She is the mother one loves, but hates and avoids. And Malcolm Ingram plays the dead father reclining but commenting. All of this again with the typical Pinter ambiguity and menace and surprise and, when needed, agility.
“Victoria Station” is never reached in the small play that ends the evening. The two men, Pilkington and Ingram, are cab driver and his controller, on telephones, each in his spot of light. In this brief coda play, the driver doesn’t know where he is, let alone where the station is, but never mind, the dialog along with the pauses and ambiguities are all there and has the right tone. The characters, each far different from those played earlier, are clearly limned, if preposterous, and the humor is more blatant and less menacing.
The whole evening is pure Printer as I, limitedly, understand him. And it is delightful. Printer would never explain what the plays “meant.” Sometimes we do try to explain them, though. They are full of the banalities of contemporary life, non-realistic, but real in their own way. No clear message is intended.
So go. Director Eric Tucker can be proud of this production and of the zest and skill with which his three actors bring their varied roles to rollicking, suspenseful life.