kate west review
by Harold Pinter, directed by Matt Gottlieb
at the Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose
Avenue (between LaBrea and Fairfax), Los Angeles 90046
running February 12
- March 20, 2005;contact (323) 852-9111
Pinter, the brilliant contemporary British playwright, wrote "The Caretaker"
in 1960 and has been unstoppable since those early plays. Always sharp, bleak
and clever, his works illustrate human alienation and the everyman coping with
the harsh modern world.
Caretaker" opens with dangerous-looking and surly Mick (Steven Spiro) rifling
through a rundown apartment. He runs out when slow-moving Aston (Jaxon Duff Gwillim)
enters, bringing home old man Davies (Robert Mandan, of television's "Soap").
The two shuffle in and begin a rather disconnected Pinteresque dialogue, the gist
of which is that the old man can stay with Aston for a while, as he is currently
homeless. When Aston is away, however, Davies meets the other brother Mick, who
greatly intimidates him and a subtle power struggle ensues. Davies tries to play
one brother off the other, never knowing for certain which one is actually in
charge. Aston has undergone some kind of psychiatric brain washing (a lobotomy
is strongly implied), yet in spite of this, the two brothers are fiercely protective
of each other. In the end, in spite of each character's plans and dreams, the
play concludes precisely the same way it begins, signifying that there is rarely
a possibility for change.
deliberate pace must be delicately balanced with the energy of the actors, however
in this production, Director Matt Gottlieb does not push the actors. Jaxon Duff
Gwillim, as the brain foggy Aston has very low energy, which he tries very hard
to convey as mentally slow but the danger is that the pacing is deadly slow and
at times even boring. Pinter should not be boring. The other two actors are fine;
Robert Mandan may be a bit over the top but he is generally quite entertaining
and Steven Spiro turns in a fairly conventional performance as the darkly mysterious
brother. It is a standard version of a Pinter play, with no obvious insight, yet
the playwright's voice is still strong and one comes away with an inkling of a
great man's work.
Designer Ben Ainlay (also Light Designer) and Costume Designer Susan Chan create
a convincingly drab atmosphere with a cluttered, dilapidated apartment and shabby
clothes but all that does not compensate for the slow pacing and the fact that
the play is over two hours long with two intermissions doesn't help. Still it
always nice to hear classical contemporary works acted live so it may not be a