This past weekend I was lucky enough to have received an invite to a showing of The Lover at the Bridge Repertory Theater of Boston. A play written by well-known English playwright Harold Pinter back in 1962. Harold Pinter was best known for his plays the Birthday Party and Homecoming.
Prior to going to the show, I did Google what the play was about and I am glad I did as I was a little confused (even after googling it.) I wasn’t confused by the play subject matter, that was very clear, but more of whether this was really a two-person play or whether one of the actors was playing multiple roles. Pinter cleverly leads the audience to believe that there are three characters in the play. You will know what I mean if you go and see it.
Deane Hall is located towards the back of the Bridge Rep Theater (Calderwood Pavilion) and is a very small room, which on Saturday night housed about 40 audience members in front of the small stage set up on the same level. As we walked in (talking a bit too loudly) we were suddenly shocked into silence as two actors sat straight back to the wall on either side of the stage with sleep masks and nightwear on. We whispered for the next 10 minutes in total anticipation as they sat completely still until the play started.
At the start of the play you immediately guess that Sarah and Richard (the couple) are at an unusual place in their relationship. Upon waking up their conversation takes on an air of awkward casualness as they discuss the potential afternoon visit of Sarah’s lover. Richard does not seem to object in any way to these trysts even as they talk openly about Sarah's fantasies. Even more surprising, Richard’s lover is then brought into conversation and again discussed openly. The difference is that as the conversation expands, Sarah seems far more put out by this line of conversation as he refers to his lover as a whore and boney.
This is a play about fidelity and infidelity all confusedly rolled up. It makes you think about what is right and wrong in a supposedly “normal” relationship. You soon realize that they are both living in a fantasy world and all is not what it seems. There is a bizarre comedy to the play, which feels a little out of place given the subject matter but it works in a way that makes you think for yourself about how you would deal with a similar situation. You are also physically close to the actors so feel very much a part of their slightly twisted world.
Both actors, Richard played by Joe Short and Sarah played by McCalea Donovan do a superb job of not only getting under each other’s skin but also the audiences. Their dialogue doesn’t always make it clear what is going on, instead you have to read between the lines of the mundane conversations and the long silences between Sarah and Richard and work it out for yourselves. It’s an interesting and compelling guessing game.
Even though this play was written in the 1960s it is amazing how much of it translates into today’s lack of communication culture amongst couples and people in general.
The Lover brewed up a number of emotions in me from making me feel uncomfortable, to being amused, to being saddened but ultimately thinking about how difficult relationships can be. I truly enjoyed this very short hour long play that flew by so quickly.
The Lover is currently playing at the Bridge Repertory Theater, Tremont Street, South End through March 17. Tickets can be purchased through http://bridgerepofboston.com/