The Dumbwaiter, Primate Theatre Ensemble, at Voltaire. You see, there are these two hit men waiting for their prey, but mysterious messages keep falling down a chute in the wall–yes, it’s The Dumbwaiter, second only to Edward Albee’s Zoo Story on the roster of popular acting-class exercises since the mid-60s. Harold Pinter was an actor before he was a playwright, and his deliberately ambiguous duet for male voices reflects an actor’s sensibility, allowing a variety of interpretations.

This Primate Theatre Ensemble production is subtitled “A Comedy of Menace,” but director Diantha S. Bovey’s idea of menace seems to consist solely of one character glowering and the other quailing. She also seems to feel that humor has no place in the play, instructing her actors to stagger their tempi during the stichomythic passages and bite off the ends of gag lines, effectively aborting any laughs inherent in the script.

What does this interpretation give us in return for what it takes away? As Ben, Brett Rubin uses vocal mannerisms to cover his unfamiliarity with the character and dialect; Jeremy Glickstein as Gus is more focused in personality and accent, but he’s left to create an interpersonal dynamic in a vacuum. Technically the show is barely at a schoolroom level–the assassins’ puny firearms look incapable of stopping a hamster at two yards. This production’s emptiness inspires impatience but never a trace of unease.

–Mary Shen Barnidge