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Theatre of the Absurd. SLAC Presents: The Caretaker

September 23, 2009

caretakerSalt Lake Acting Company

9.16.2009-10.11.2009

So do you want a brief theatre history lesson? Although your answer is probably a resounding “No!”, just humor me for the slightest moment as it will help you understand the vast importance of why you should see Salt Lake Acting Company’s (SLAC) The Caretaker by Harold Pinter. Don’t worry, I will spare you nonsense about Greeks and Shakespeare. In the more recent past, about 50 years ago, there was a theatre movement deemed by Martin Esslin as “Theatre of the Absurd.”  It was a reaction to World War II highlighting the philosophy that all attempts to find meaning in this life are “absurd” because there is no meaning to life. Depressed yet? Just wait… To more clearly paint the right picture, think existential, think post-apocalyptic, think Nietzsche. Now put it on stage with kooky characters, surreal situations, and far reaching symbolism and behold the Theatre of the Absurd. Such modern classics as Waiting For Godot, The Bald Soprano, and The Zoo Story all emerged during this time with beautifully constructed plays heavy on dialogue and thought provoking themes; low on action and meaningless melodrama; revolutionary in thought and storytelling. This movement continued into the 21st century and is still influencing playwrights of our day like David Mamet, Sam Shepherd, Tom Stoppard, and, until his death in December of last year, Harold Pinter.

Harold Pinter

Harold Pinter

And this is where the past meets the present as SLAC. In conjunction with their 2009-2010 season, currently playing, Pinter’s fantastically depressing, yet poignantly humane play, The Caretaker. It has all the issues of 50 years ago and themes that seem to be just as pertinent today. SLAC has truly lived up to everything absurd and more under the direction of John Vreeke and his cast of Daniel Beecher, Joe Cronin, and Matthew Ivan Bennett.

Vreek’s command of the crowded space is also worth commending. The mountains of stuff and the piles of junk never felt awkward or encumbering. Interestingly, the same thing could be said for the very dialogue of the script. Instead of allowing the mountains of words and piles of pauses to take over the story, each actor was able to use his words to propel his character forward. As an audience member, I was never left behind in a heap of confusing language.

You have to see the set! I’m not kidding. Walking into the theatre, the eye is drawn immediately to the stage. It’s like the old lady’s house down the street.  You know, the one with all the cats; old hand-pump spray guns, out-dated toasters, bags, books, buddhas-honestly you name it, they have it. The dilapidation is artistic in design, and yet gritty in feel. The textures between the holes in the walls and the famous bucket made me want to reach out and touch everything. It all had such a rough yet subdued tone perfectly enhancing the world created by Pinter. The entire creative team came together and presented a very cohesive piece of art. This show was a prime example of collaboration success.

Pinter himself said “As far as I am concerned The Caretaker is funny, up to a point. Beyond that point, it ceases to be funny, and it is because of that point that I wrote it.” SLAC brilliantly illustrated what Pinter had in mind. Ol’ Harold would be proud.

by Meggan Steffensen

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