We rarely get a chance to see the works of Nobel laureate and absurdist playwright Harold Pinter, so it was a joy to see Other Places presented by Four Humours at the Dryades Theater.
Other Places is actually four one-act plays. At Dryades, each had a different director, and the staging throughout was minimal but effective.
In One For the Road, directed by Ed Bishop, Nicholas (Mikko) sits at his desk in a suit and tie. He's the head of some sort of bizarre institution, but he seems more like a sadistic cult leader. And a drunk. One by one, his patients/prisoners enter in bare feet and rags: Victor (Jake Bartush), his wife Gila (Cat Wilkinson) and their 7-year-old son Nicky (Maxwell Canko). They are almost catatonic, and Nicholas torments them verbally. He brags that everyone in the building knows the voice of God speaks through him and also that there is a brothel on the sixth floor. Gila is apparently being raped upstairs with such regularity she can't remember how many times it has happened. It's a dystopian fable that could have been dreamed up by Kafka.
Kathryn Talbot directed the slightly less absurd Victoria Station. A London cab dispatcher (Kathryn Merris Scott) calls Driver 274 (Blake Buchert), who seems clueless. The dispatcher wants him to go to Victoria Station (one of the best known spots in London) to pick up a fare, but the driver does not know where or what Victoria Station is. Eventually, the driver reveals he has a woman asleep in the back of his cab, which surprises the dispatcher and elicits jealousy. Edging closer to realism is Family Voices, directed by Daniel Schubert-Skelly. A young man (Bartush) has left his mother's (Rebecca McNeill Meyers) and father's (Bob Edes Jr.) country home to live in a city. Most of the play alternates between scenes of him recounting his exploits in the city and his lonely mother pining for him. He doesn't respond to her letter informing him of his father's death. Finally, he says he will return to his mother, but it's not clear if he will.
Andy Niemann directed A Kind of Alaska, which uses the Yukon as a metaphor. Deborah (Claudia Baumgarten) lies in a coma. Sitting beside her, Hornsby (Edes) queries her and hopes for a response. She wakes and reacts, and we learn she has been unconscious for 29 years. The tale is hardly Ibsen, but it's the closest Pinter gets to realism. Much of Alaska deals with Deborah's struggle to understand what's happened, and that effort is further complicated by the arrival of her younger sister Pauline (Scott). Baumgarten handles this demanding role with delicacy.
In all of these pieces, excellent acting and directing made the plots more appealing than they sound.
Thanks to Four Humours for bringing us lesser-known works by a modern master. — DALT WONK