|Cristina Anselmo and Mike Ryan in The Lovers.|
For the final offering of its 2012/2013 season, Jewel Theatre Company teams up with Shakespeare Santa Cruz to present an evening of two one-act plays by Harold Pinter. With popular performers Paul Whitworth, Mike Ryan and JTC Artistic Director Julie James onstage, and James and SSC Artistic Director Marco Barricelli handling directing duties, that's a lot of bang for the buck on the tiny Center Stage.
JTC continues to earn its reputation for presenting challenging, often unorthodox live theatre in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz, and the Pinter plays are no exception. First up, The Lovers, is more overtly "Pinteresque," a snapshot of marital gamesmanship with a wry, acerbic edge. Its companion piece, One For the Road, is something completely different, a cold-blooded portrait of a political torturer.
What these tense, compact pieces have in common are the dishy roles they provide for the talent onstage.
Mike Ryan and Cristina Anselmo are both terrific in The Lovers. Button-down, bowler-hatted Richard leaves for his financial job in the City (ie: London) every morning after exchanging a few caustic remarks with stay-at-home wife, Sarah, about the "lover" she will be entertaining in his absence and the "whore" he will visit on his way home.
|Paul Whitworth and Mike Ryan in One For the Road.|
Their comments are so arch, the audience thinks it's all just talk—until we drop in on each of them later in the day and see what sort of shenanigans each is getting up to. Julie James directs the piece as a brisk fugue on marriage, sex, and identity, with a couple of nifty surprises, played out with wit and brio by Anselmo and Ryan.
A bit less user-friendly is One For The Road, directed by Marco Barricelli. It's set in an interrogation chamber in an unnamed place or time, where victims of severe political torture are ushered in to meet with the man running the show, Nicolas (Paul Whitworth). There's not much of a story (beyond man's capacity for inhumanity), and the piece is less a drama with a resolution than a character study.
But it's a great role for Whitworth, who excels at this kind of prowling menace thinly veiled as unctuous bonhomie. Ryan and James appear briefly as two of his victims, along with talented young Diego Hammana, a student at Mar Vista Elementary making his professional theater debut.
Also making her JTC debut is veteran SSC costume designer B. Modern. (I especially liked the navy blue dress with faux bolero top Sarah zips herself into for her tryst in The Lovers.) And as always, Ron Gasparinetti's thoughtful sets make maximum use of that most intimate Center Stage space.
This production runs through May 19. Click here for tickets and info!