by Lynn on September 13, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At The Dirt Underneath, 101 Niagara Street, Suite 205, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Harold Pinter
Directed by Scott Walker
Set by Pascal Labillois
Lighting by Steve Vargo
Costumes by Anne van Leeuwen
Cast: Lauren Horejda
Mark Paci
Anne van Leeuwen

This is a noble effort of this maddeningly difficult Pinter play with mixed results.

The Story. Deeley and his wife Kate live in a remote part of England. His work (never really explained) requires that he travel frequently. One assumes Kate stays home. She doesn’t seem to work. They are waiting for Anna to arrive. She is Kate’s best and only friend we learn from Kate. She is coming from Italy where she lives with her husband.

When Anna arrives she and Kate reminisce about all the great times they had in London; going out to the theatre and other cultural events; going to movies; going to bars; and perhaps the men they met along the way.

Deeley feels left out and so Deeley and Anna begin vying for Kate’s affections. They manoeuvre around each other with a memory that can out point the other. Are the memories true? They vary from character to character. Kate watches it all with a sphinx-like smile, enjoying the fight over her by these two.

The Production. Pascal Labillois has designed a warm, well appointed room with a window created on the back wall with foliage on the other side of the window. Director Scott Walker and his cast of three generally handle Pinter’s languid pace well. Voices are low and even seductive. Those pauses seethe with emotion and mystery. But too often Scott Walker directs Mark Paci as Deeley to explode in anger and frustration. It’s a normal reaction generally, but this is Pinter country and ‘normal’, does not apply. I think it a wrong choice because to explode like that puts Deeley at a disadvantage too early in the play. It should be an equal race to ‘win’ Kate for the whole play, not part of it. While Lauren Horejda as Kate does have a sphinx-like smile, she seems too obvious in her body language, making an effort to be mysterious. Anne van Leeuwen is right on the money as Anna. She is coy, seductive, alluring and comes on to both Deeley and Kate. This is one confident, dangerous woman.

Theories abound about the play. Is it all in the mind of Deeley? Did he really know both women before? Who was the man in the other bed when Anna and Kate were home? Pinter never tells and it’s up to each viewer to decide for himself/herself. One wonders who invited Anna? Did she invite herself after all these years? Did Kate invite her? After all Deeley is away a lot travelling for his job and they live in a remote part of England so perhaps Kate wanted company. And another mystery is why do they live in such a remote part of England if Deeley is away so often? Perhaps he wants to keep Kate to himself in every way—to keep her isolated and far from anyone who knew her. I love the mystery of the play. I wish the production kept digging at creating more of that mystery.

Comment. I love Unit 102 Actors Co. I love their guts and fearlessness to do theatre. I enjoyed seeing their fine work at their previous space on Dufferin St. But things being what they are these days, the building changed hands and the company was forced to find another theatre for their work. They found a temporary space in a building at 101 Niagara Street. Trying to find clear signage as to where exactly in this building Old Times was being performed was as elusive as trying to come up with the meaning of Pinter’s play.

While the performing space is called The Dirt Underneath and I thought that would mean the space was in the basement, that was news to the courier company guy I spoke to, in the basement. He didn’t know of any play. Did I mean that group of 20 young girls in tutus that just went by the building? I did not, but isn’t that fodder for a Pinter play?

I climbed up to the second floor and saw a hastily scribbled sign giving directions which I obviously mis-read because I wandered down corridors leading to nothing. I wended my way back and waited outside the second floor door. People came who did read the scribbled sign better than I did. We went through another door down more corridors without any proper signage to tell us WHERE in this dispiriting building the play was. Eventually I saw a sign with an arrow pointing in the right direction but no room number. (God you have to have such patience for indie theatre….but I digress). I was told where the play was by a young man who turned out to be the stage manager.

Folks, better signs please, beginning with signs on the outside of the building, up the stairs, on the door we go through clearly marked, then other signs on the walls of this dispiriting building clearly marked and the actual room number we enter. Come on, this is important to you and to us who want to see your work. Thank you.

Unit 102 Actors Co Presents.

First performance: Sept. 8, 2016.
Closes: Sept. 24, 2016.
Cast: 3; 1 man, 2 women.
Running Time: 90 minutes.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.