A Double Bill of Short Plays by Harold Pinter

Photo by Peter Rosenstein
Patrick Kennedy, Jack Koenig, Patrick Ball, Michael Kahn
Patrick Kennedy, Jack Koenig, Patrick Ball, Michael Kahn

Michael Kahn, Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) Artistic Director shares his thoughts on the two one act Pinter plays he directs before you even enter the theater. He wrote “I first encountered these two short plays by Harold Pinter when I was much younger. Back then, I didn’t understand them. Well, I’ve had enough relationships since then to understand them now. There are some plays you just shouldn’t do until you’ve been out in the world. These are probably two of them.” I think you can add to that these are also plays you shouldn’t see until you have lived life a little but anyone who has will find them intriguing and often mesmerizing. 

 Lisa Dwan and Michael Kahn (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Lisa Dwan and Michael Kahn


Kahn goes on to explain “The Lover is about a young married couple who live in a suburb outside of London. He goes to work in the City every day and she stays home. The surprise comes in the very first scene. Getting ready to go to work, he asks his wife if her lover is coming today. She says, “Mmm.” And he leaves. And that’s the beginning of the set of puzzles in that play.” The second play, The Collection is about two more couples, one married for two years, and the other, which was quite surprising for the time, a gay couple. They are clearly a couple—it’s never mentioned, but the intent is clear—an older, wealthier man and a younger guy from the other side of the tracks. The mystery of the play is a story that is told about a hotel room in Leeds. It motivates all of the action and the dynamics of all the relationships.”


After reading this missive from Kahn there was some trepidation as to whether I would get the plot and the subplots. Was my IQ and level of understanding equal to Trumps or Tillersons? I leave that to you to decide when I tell you I did understand the plays and loved them. Kahn’s direction brought out the best of the author and his actors. 


The acting is uniformly brilliant. Four actors make up the cast of both plays. Lisa Dwan is in both playing Sarah in The Lover and Stella in The Collection. Patrick Kennedy plays Richard in The Lover and James in The Collection. Patrick Ball is Bill in The Collection and Jack Koenig is Harry in The Collection.  


The evening opens with The Lover and from her opening looks and movements Lisa Dwan holds your attention. She is perfect going from the wife to the lover and Patrick Kennedy is often mesmerizing as the lover and the husband. Now you figure this out. The night we were there right in the middle of an intense scene the fire-alarm in the theater went off. While it was a false alarm it held up the show for about ten minutes. Few actors could come back on-stage and bring the scene back to the same intensity it had before being interrupted but these two did that. The humor can be subtle and if you get it, and under Kahn’s direction you should, this is a very funny play.

Patrick Ball and Michael Kahn (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Patrick Ball and Michael Kahn


The Collection is more serious and deals with the foibles of a straight marriage and how the husband and wife end up interacting with a gay couple. The battles within each relationship are played out against the other couple’s relationship. In this play all four actors shine but one is often focused on Patrick Ball as the young gay man who becomes the focus of strife for both couples. His movements and timing are perfect. Patrick Kennedy as James is great and one must give him extra kudos as he joined the cast late in rehearsals but one would never guess that. Jack Koenig is a wonderful foil and is actually the only actor who has performed with the STC before. We can only hope to see him back again. There is a live cat in a couple of scenes who I was told played his part to perfection the evening I saw the plays.  


The scenic design by Debra Booth is great especially when she has to have two apartments on the same stage in The Collection and Lighting Designer Mary Louise Geiger makes us believe. Legendary Costume Designer Jane Greenwood once again makes us see the designs as an integral part of the plays; and Veronica J. Lancaster’s sound design complements everything happening without being a distraction which is what it should be here.


Pinter is not always easy to understand but these two plays at the STC are definitely worth the time and effort and make for a great night in the theater. They will be at the Lansburgh through October 29th.