note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Carl A. Rossi
Mick … Joe Lanza
Aston … John Kuntz
Davies … Michael Balcanoff
After recently attending some flavorless, piebald Brecht, I was delighted to catch up with Nora Theatre’s production of Harold Pinter’s THE CARETAKER --- by God, much of it actually looks and sounds like Pinter, and a goodly handful of performances remain (hint!). THE CARETAKER is early Pinter as Angry Young Man: an old derelict who calls himself Davies plays out a tragicomic mind-game with two contrasting brothers: the remote Aston offers Davies a caretaker position in a rundown house in West London; the thuggish Mick torments Davies, verbally; when Davies tries to turn the tables, he winds up as Odd Man Out. Yes, this is early Pinter, green and sharp, if already formulaic with his pauses and silences, elliptical dialogue and underlying malice (the AYM soon became a fashionable entertainer --- “a matinee; a Pinter play…”), and director Daniel Gidron “sings” Mr. Pinter’s music very well (now, if his Davies could face Aston while muttering his closing lines, I’d be a happy camper). Like a stripper who knows she is far more alluring dressed than naked, Mr. Pinter keeps much of his evenings under wraps (when strapped for an ending, he could --- and did --- fall back on sudden, silent tableaus), and Mr. Gidron teases his audience, accordingly: rather than go for interpretation, Mr. Gidron wisely orchestrates THE CARETAKER’s words words words, instead --- words that float up from wreckage, below, or erupt into mountains threatening to topple --- and the audience creates its own plotlines. Good Pinter-audiences are thinking-audiences, and Herr Brecht can eat his heart out…
Two of Mr. Gidron’s actor-instruments are superb. Michael Balcanoff’s Davies is all soiled charm and resentment, more pathetic than rancid, yet still convincing when he flashes a knife in self-defense; Joe Lanza’s Mick is an impressive minefield, swooping between violence feigned and violence real --- a cruel cat to Mr. Balcanoff’s rat. Mr. Gidron is to be commended for casting John Kuntz as Aston rather than as Davies, and how nice to see Mr. Kuntz as an actor, for a change, rather than a Personality, but Mr. Kuntz plays his own dark music, not Pinter’s, albeit in a minor key: his Aston sulks and glowers and seems far more dangerous than Davies and Mick, combined; not surprisingly, Mr. Kuntz gets to do his shriek-thing in Act Three --- the Personality, briefly triumphant. Should you mentally cast that radiant mooncalf Shawn Sturnick, long gone from the Boston scene, you would see what a gentle, lost angel Aston is.
This was my first visit to the Central Square Theater, modest state-of-the-art in the midst of student chic and funkiness, and Janie Howland has contributed a tastefully junky set that evokes dank, mold and industrial dust; my one nitpik regarding Jacqueline Dalley’s costumes is Mr. Balcanoff’s long-johns which are far too immaculate: for a character who is repeatedly told that he stinks, this garment should be a study in brown and yellow…