When Harold Pinter’s drama was first produced at Britain’s National Theatre in 1975, it was a star vehicle, offering virtuoso acting by John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson. Now that the star glamour has worn off, it’s possible to see the play more clearly. At times Pinter appears to be imitating Pinter, bringing out all the familiar tropes. Nevertheless, the writing is rich, and director Michael Peretzian gives it an elegant, well-acted production. Two elderly writers, Hirst (Lawrence Pressman) and Spooner (Alan Mandell) meet by chance in a Hampstead pub, and Hirst invites Spooner to his townhouse for a drink. At first, the two seem to be strangers, but gradually it emerges that they have been rivals — sexual and professional — since their days at Oxford. Hirst has won the success game, while Spooner lives in genteel poverty. Prosperity and alcohol have left Hirst semi-embalmed, while Spooner is very much alive, and angling for employment as Hirst’s secretary-companion. But two slightly menacing caretakers are already in place — Briggs (Jamie Donovan) and Foster (John Sloan). Their position is ambiguous: Are they Hirst’s employees or his captors? Mysteries and contradictions proliferate in an evening of perverse wit and skillful acting. Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.; West L.A.; schedule varies, call for information. (310) 477-2055 or odysseytheatre.com.
Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wed., Nov. 4, 7 p.m.; Wed., Nov. 11, 7 p.m. Starts: Oct. 31. Continues through Dec. 19, 2009
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