Torn Space theater company, under the direction of Dan Shanahan, is currently offering a smart, powerful, and beautifully performed evening of one-act plays by Harold Pinter. Hurry to catch these plays at the Adam Mickiewicz Dramatic Circle for the opportunity to see a professional production of such intellectually stimulating work is becoming more and more rare. For Torn Space, however, with its mission to push the limits of theatrical convention, the work of Harold Pinter is actually a move in a more traditional direction. In his subject matter and in his manipulation of the theatrical forms, however, Torn Space has found a very comfortable kindred spirit in Pinter.
The plays are, Family Voices, One for the Road, and Night. The first is a series of monologues representing unsent letters between a young man, his mother, and his father. These roles are played by Joseph Demerly, Sharon Strait, and G. Anton Moore. Each is perfect, in a well-modulated and moving series of increasingly tendentious and deranged exchanges between estranged family members. The son, we conclude, has abandoned the family and may be going mad. The mother is feeling alone and betrayed, and while she does feel great love for her son, she cannot contain a simultaneous feeling of anger toward him.
Local scholar and global Pinter authority Penelope Prentice informs me that One for the Road was inspired by a trip that Pinter took with Arthur Miller to visit Turkish prisons in the 1980’s. The play examines the torture of three members of the family, a man, a woman, and their seven-year-old child. Rocco LaPenna plays the torturer, Nicolas; Afrim S. Djonbalic is Victor, the man; Kara McKenney is the woman, Gila; and Ken Lukasik plays their son, Nicky. (Prentice observed for me that the torturer, Nicolas, and the little boy, Nicky, have the same name, reinforcing the idea that anyone can become a torturer as well as Pinter’s own observation that it is the best students who are recruited to perform torture). The mental mutilations performed by Nicolas as he downs one drink after another, are haunting in their mundane sadism. The sense of foreboding, even in the face of the violence already done to the characters, is both intriguing and difficult to endure.
Night, the final play of the evening, a lighter, but far from light-hearted discussion between a devoted couple played by Joy Scime and G. Anton Moore provides a needed antidote to One for the Road. The couple cannot agree on the details of their meeting, but do agree on the tumult of their relationship, their insecurities and wants.
Working with an ideal cast, Shanahan has both rendered Pinter’s words evocatively and has created a number of vivid and disturbing stage images. Lighting designer Michael Lodick has assisted him in this task, moving the characters between light and shadow, into murky dimness or into harsh light to reinforce the text.