The Caretaker

By Harold Pinter

The Caretaker by Harold Pinter at Writers' Theatre
The Caretaker by Harold Pinter

Directed by Ron OJ Parson

produced by Writers’ Theatre

At the Books On Vernon Bookstore, Glencoe

Riveting production of Pinter’s classic expertly directed and acted

Harold Pinter’s first hit play – The Caretaker (1960) took elements of the theatre of the absurd and added mystery, uncertainty and poetic ambiguity that gave a voice to people on society’s fringe. Those oppressed had a voice through Pinter’s plays. His influence on playwrights was immense from Tom Stoppard to David Mamet, the theatre world was touched by Pinter’s unique style that became know as “Comedy of Menace” by  drama critic Irving Wallace as Pinter mixed humor, wordplay and mounting tension from his damaged and lonely characters. Stylistically, Pinter used pauses to heighten tension and repetitious dialogue to great effect.  As an actor’s playwright, Harold Pinter allowed the actor room to put the play truly between the lines.

The Caretaker introduced the world to Pinter’s brand of theatre. Aston (Anish Jethmalani) bring home a fast talking tramp Davis (William J. Norris) to his junk-filled room in a London apartment building. Davis needs new shoes and a place to sleep. Davis quickly realized that Aston and his brother Mick (Kareem Bandealy) have a special take on the world. Aston has several unfinished projects while Mick has pipe dreams of an opulent remodeled apartment while Davis wants his papers back so he can move on. The three become an unlikely trio desperate to connect to one another but always missing the mark.

The Caretaker by Pinter at Writers' Theatre

The Caretaker is an “actor’s play” that needs strong nuanced performances and director Ron OJ Parson has found three from Chicago’s “A” list to people The Caretaker. From the stoic Aston nimbly played by Anish Jethmalani to the manic fast-talking Mick ,played with verbal prowess by Kareem Bandealy, to the  complex and contradictory Davis played richly (and humorously) by WilliamJ. Norris, Pinter’s classic is sure in good hands.

The Caretaker by Pinter at Writers' Theatre

In time Aston offers Davis a job as caretaker of the house. Aston’s brother, Mick – a taunting, quasi-sadist harasses the derelict when his brother is away, countermanding his orders. Pinter uses elements of both comedy and tragedy in this  complexity of the play. The Caretaker deals with failed communications and unfolds as a power struggle between Davies and Aston and Davies and Mick. Pinter’s language is filled with 149 silent pauses and several repetitions of a single phrase, mostly by Davies. These signature Pinter techniques are vividly displayed as the performers smoothly deliver Pinter’s subtle sublime tense dark comedy mixed with personal angst.

The Caretaker by Pinter at Writers' Theatre

Jack Magaw’s junk-filled set literally takes the audience into the London apartment. Heather Gilbert’s lighting adds depth to the atmosphere.  The Caretaker is a marvelous theatrical work deftly presented by Writers’ Theatre . You’ll be hard pressed to find three finer performances that those playing in The Caretaker. I especially was impressed by the strong work by veteran actor William J. Norris as the crusty tramp Davies. Every actor and acting student need to get to Glencoe to learn how to direct and act a Pinter play.  This is a world-class production.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: November 17, 2011

Jeff Recommended

For full show information, visit TheatreInChicago.

At Writers’ Theatre, 664 Vernon Ave., Glencoe, IL, call 847-242-6000, www.writerstheatre.org, tickets $35 – $65, Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 7:30 pm, Wednesday matinees at 2 pm (Nov. 23, Dec. 21, Jan. 4, Feb. 29 & Mar. 21 only, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 & 6 pm, running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission, through March 25, 2012.