THE DUMBWAITER and VICTORIA STATION, Defiant Theatre, at Angel Island. Harold Pinter was an actor before he became a playwright, and his enigmatic plays reflect an actor’s concerns: he eschews all but the barest details of time, place, and context, concentrating instead on psychological subtext and emotional interaction. As a result his plays are nearly irresistible to young theater artists.
Christopher Thometz and Ted Lesley, playing the two assassins in The Dumbwaiter, attack their roles with great fervor, reveling in the extended vowels and clipped consonants of their underclass-Brit dialects and shoveling on the twitches and tics and Stanislavskian silences. But they start their characters at such a pitch of nervous intensity that they have nowhere to go emotionally as the play’s tension increases. Their approach also tends to telegraph the ending, as does director Joe Foust’s take on the two men’s relationship. When the climax finally comes, instead of being shocked we wonder why it hasn’t happened much sooner.
Sean Sinitski as the taxi dispatcher and Richard Ragsdale as the driver in Victoria Station, directed by Rob Kimmel, take a much more subtle approach. Playing into the power that lies in Pinter’s famous pauses (about which volumes of scholarly conjecture have been written), they produce a quietly concentrated conflict between two clearly opposing personalities that kindles with riveting slowness to a small but triumphant climax, moving us as no amount of noise and script chewing can. In Defiant Theatre’s program of one-acts, The Dumbwaiter precedes Victoria Station, but the second is well worth the wait.