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Theater Wed Jul 11 2012

The Lover Serves Up Timeless Conundrums at A Red Orchid Theatre

thelover.jpgHarold Pinter's story, originally written and performed in 1963, is simple enough: man nor woman just ain't meant for domestication. Bovine we are not, and the idea of living out day-to-day matrimonial obligation is as appealing as a life sentence of hard labor on a Deep South chain gang.

Pinter's The Lover is short (about 50 minutes), bitter, and to the point: Richard & Sarah (Mick Weber, Ravi Batista) have been married for a decade, that is one certainty. For how long both have been entertaining an extramarital affair is anyone's guess - we're never made privy to how long and what for; but Sarah has taken the high moral ground and informs Richard of her afternoon delights with her virile consort. While Richard toils the corner office, Sarah is getting her hair parted down the middle by her thrice-weekly visitor. Of course, as a good wife would do, she warns Richard not to come home early nor to expect a hot dinner waiting because Sarah will deeply reposed in post-coital bliss, and the last thing she wants to see is Richard inconvenienced. Sarah is a thoughtful, loving wife, and Richard, the dutiful and thoughtful husband always complies, even when he threatens to do otherwise.

Who is Sarah's lover? We're threatened with reveal with the arrival of the milkman - who may have salacious thoughts of Sarah, but she's waiting for her someone special. And when he arrives... it's The Pina Colada Song blended into extramarital boredom. Sarah's lover is none other than Richard, taking his thrice-weekly sojourn from work, making his way home to go knock the bottom out of Sarah's vagina - and play the bongos while she dances the seven veils, or so. (BTW, where does one apply for a gig where you can leave at anytime, hoof it back to the outer burbs, and not get the circular file? Yep, it's 1962, and this one huge overshadow dates the play).

Things get a little crazy when Richard insists that Sarah end things with her lover. Sarah returns the volley with the knowledge that Richard has a secret love of his own. It's back and forth, and back and forth. Richard wonders why the couple just can't be themselves. After all, they're not that happy as lovers either. Sarah finally admits the only thing that keeps her from insanity is pretending she has something more than a stump of emotional assistance; the notion of wedded bliss is as real as the gods of Olympus. Even role-playing leads to heterosexual bed death, if you're going to change the names but keep the "actors" around. Sarah should have had a glass of milk.

Batista and Weber are incredibly strong actors in a score composed when the divorce rate was a single-digit, most women, no matter their economic station, were "homemakers", and job security as a non-issue. The Lover is almost dated to the point of obsolescence, but its saving grace is its compactness, the performers and Pinter's crystal ball prediction that monogamy is best served when it's "monogamish". Is it going out on a limb to say that Pinter saw the state of marriage marching into the throes of death? Well, the current divorce rate is almost 65% in some places (especially amongst evangelicals - go figure), singletons outnumbered marrieds, there are several websites making mega-bank catering to extramarital affair seekers, divorce attorneys are overworked, and of course the Craigslist personals. Hey, let's give Richard and Sarah points for tryin' somethin' new.

The Lover is playing through July 15 at A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells St., on Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30pm; Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $20 (1/2 off day of show); $10 students & seniors. More info here.

Photo: (left to right) Ravi Batista and Mick Weber. Photo by Johnny Knight.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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