“The Birthday Party” by Harold Pinter opened on October 17th at Cockroach Theater. I was able to attend one of the shows earliest performances.
The play is set in a run down boarding house in England where owners Meg and Petey live with their strange boarder with a past Stanley. When the play opens Meg and Petey played by Barbara King and Anthony Farmer respectively are in the kitchen and Meg is serving his breakfast. Anthony Farmer gives Petey an understated humor within the character that made me giggle and laugh under my breath. His slow walk reminded me of when Tim Conway used to do it on the Carol Burnett Show as an old man. His character is the least important to the story so its nice he plays an integral part in his own way. Toward the end of the play he did stand up for Stanley against the two men but it felt unnecessary and out of character for Petey. It did make me think he cared more for him than I originally thought. Meg is an older woman who takes care of the house and her boarder Stanley played by Scott McAdam. Barbara King plays Meg very well with humor and a motherly instinct. Her desire to take care of Stanley is nice yet overbearing and borders on intrusive even though she means well. Stanley is a weird mysterious character and we never find out his real story. Scott McAdam convincingly plays Stanley as unhappy and tortured. The play becomes more exciting and fully charged when two men in black come to stay at the boarding house. Goldberg played by David Beck and McCann played by Bryan Todd come looking for Stanley so they can take him away and force him to deal with his past. Bryan Todd gives a strong performance as McCann. When you look at him his presence is intimidating and at the same time the more you look at him he seems innocent. However, when he opens his mouth and he starts screaming at you his intimidation and the fear you feel come back in an instant. He gave me an impression of a time bomb waiting to go off at any moment. However, David Beck as Goldberg gives a standout and more sly performance. He was not physically intimidating at all. His intelligence and what he said made you think about what he was capable of doing. His intelligence and slow moves make him more dangerous than the obvious brute of someone twice his size. Jamie Carvelli Pikrone plays Lulu a woman who comes and goes during the course of the play. Pikrones portrayal is sexy yet innocent and you never really know which is the truth. I enjoyed having to wonder whether she even knows which personality is her own. Her strongest scene came in a conversation between her and Beck. Her anger and hurt was evident while she was yelling at Beck for what happened.
The play itself was boring and I hardly enjoyed the script at all. When I watch a play that doesn’t give you all the facts and makes you wonder about the outcome of the events and the characters I feel empty leaving the theater. I didn’t like the premise of throwing a birthday party in the middle of this event where these two men are trying to take another man and make him pay for what ever he may have done. The actors were the only piece of this puzzle that made me care about this play at all.
The direction by Erik Amblad was the best he could do with the play he had. The set design by Timothy Burris made me think of an old fishing town restaurant. The big kitchen table hugely present and the center of many discussions but it wasn’t overbearing and it did serve its purpose for the important black out scene. The lighting by Shawn Hackler was important for its contrast and the drama created in the black out scene.
The play runs until October 30th. You can purchase tickets at: