Review “The Room” (A Red Orchid Theatre): Pinter’s Puzzler

Wednesday, October 5, 2016 Permalink

hb-ward-kirsten-fitzgerald-photo-by-michael-brosilowA Red Orchid Theatre presents THE ROOM.

Playwright Harold Pinter puts us in a small room.  He dumps out pieces of a colorful and warped puzzle. The challenge is to fit them together within the absurd constraints of this room. Is the space a sanctuary or a prison for Rose (played with distinction by Kirsten Fitzgerald)?  The show starts with a nervous Fitzgerald counting and moving a pile of potatoes.  Her obsessive attention to the potatoes immediately intrigues. I’m transfixed trying to figure her out.  Despite her frenzied movement, HB Ward (Bert) calmly reads his paper. Ward doesn’t acknowledge her presence or existence. Even when she starts rattling on about the weather outside, the dampness in the basement or the temperature of his tea, he gives no indication of her being in the room. She anticipates his needs without his asking or appreciating her servitude. He eats, slurps and leaves without a word.

mierka-girten-dano-duran-photo-by-michael-brosilowPinter’s quirky ode-to-home gets a riveting showcase under the innovative direction of Dado.  Scenic Designer Grant Sabin surrounds the room with multiple doors. Dado uses the doors to build dramatic tension.  Despite Fitzgerald anxiously peeking out the window, pacing the floor or rocking in her chair, the room feels safe.  Then, lights flicker. Water pipes groan. And abrupt door pounding alerts of an uninvited guest in the vicinity.  All eyes are on Fitzgerald as she reacts to each intrusion.  The oddly chatty Anish Jethmalani (Mr. Kidd) adds to the enigma of the room.  He shares little snippets about its past inhabitants.  The eccentrically-dressed  Mierka Girten (Mrs. Sands) and Dano Duran (Mr. Sands) make a memorable visit.  The wacky Girten and Dano hysterically barge in to the quiet.  They unhinge Fitzgerald as they inspect the room as potential tenants. Their aggressive friendliness is a facade.  Their sinister nature is palpable.  Whether it’s the shifty Duran shedding black feathers or Girten bolding stealing potatoes, the couple is deliciously wicked. And then there is the mysterious entrance of JoJo Brown (Riley).  Dado stages Brown arriving through multiple doors. The prolonged anticipation of him getting into the room is disconcerting. 

Dado puts us in THE ROOM.  The intimate confines force us to connect to Fitzgerald’s angst. We meet each stranger with fear and uncertainty.  THE ROOM gets very dark. By the end, we aren’t sure what has transpired but we miss the simplicity of counting potatoes. Pinter gives us some answers but leaves us with more questions              

Running:  Seventy minutes with no intermission

At A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells Street

Written by Harold Pinter

Directed by Dado

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm

Sundays at 3pm

Thru November 13th

Buy Tickets at www.aredorchidtheatre.org

For more information and reviews on Chicago theatre, visit Theater in Chicago.

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