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A Pinteresque Pairing

ae Feat TheLover3Two local theater companies collaborate to produce two one-act plays by the late playwright Harold Pinter

If what isn’t said speaks louder than what is said, then Harold Pinter’s work shouts volumes. And to explore the voluminous meaning between the late playwright’s lines, two local theater companies have banded together this season.

Jewel Theatre Company, in collaboration with Shakespeare Santa Cruz, presents two one-act plays by Pinter: “One for the Road” and “The Lover.” The show opens on Friday, April 26 at Center Stage in Santa Cruz. There will be one discount preview showing on Thursday, April 25.

Marco Barricelli, artistic director of Shakespeare Santa Cruz, is directing “One for the Road” and Julie James, artistic director of Jewel Theatre Company, is directing “The Lover”—marking the first time that the two companies have come together to collaborate on a production. Featured performers include James, Mike Ryan and Paul Whitworth.

“I’ve been trying to find different ways to get Shakespeare Santa Cruz off the hill and get a footprint in town,” says Barricelli, who approached James with a script he’d been wanting to stage for the past 20 years. The script was Pinter’s “One for the Road.” Barricelli and James had admired each other’s work for quite some time, and Jewel’s venue, Center Stage in downtown Santa Cruz, was the perfect space for this intimate production.

“The play seemed made for our little theater,” says James. “I read it and loved it and we decided to put it on together. It’s been a nice integration of creative talent.”

Because “One for the Road” is a play in one act, they decided to pair it with another of Pinter’s one-act plays, “The Lover,” to give Santa Cruz audiences a sense of the range of Pinter’s style.

A Nobel Prize-winning British playwright, Pinter (1930-2008) is considered by many to be the most influential dramatist of his generation. His work is so distinctive that the term “Pinteresque” has become an adjective used to describe theatrical works whose atmosphere hints at Pinter’s style—that is, containing a feeling of threat or foreboding that comes more from subtext than spoken lines. Pinter became well-known for his use of the pause in his scripts, inspiring the phrase “the Pinter pause.”

“He has a pause, and he has ellipses—the three dots. Then there’s something called a silence,” says James. “They all interrupt what’s being said. He meant them to mean something very specific. The pauses are integral to the rhythm of the piece, and the rhythm of the people who are speaking.”

Though some directors have shied away from making use of the plentiful pauses that Pinter sprinkles into his scripts, James and Barricelli have embraced the white space.

“Everything he writes is essential,” says Barricelli. “There’s not an ounce of fat. Every word, every moment, means something. You can’t omit it.”

This Pinteresque leanness is exactly what has attracted Barricelli to directing “One for the Road” for the past two decades.

“It has a great deal of ambiguity, and at the same time it’s very specific and compelling,” he says. “This play is directed toward all the totalitarian regimes out there that abuse their constituents. They destroy people so they are docile and don’t put up a fight. Yet we are never told where we are. We are never told when we are. So it’s ambiguous, but very specific in terms of the subject of human rights.”

True to much of Pinter’s canon, these plays are both political—“One for the Road” dealing with the politics of a nation that abuses its people; “The Lover” dealing with the politics of human relationships that take place within a marriage.

“They’re both about relationships and power, but you could say that ‘The Lover’ is a little lighter,” says James. “It was important to us to do something that makes a nice dynamic for the audience. There are aspects of humor to ‘The Lover,’ but like so many of Pinter’s plays ... everyone is fighting for their needs and desires—just like we all do every day. This is a really interesting look at the inside of a marriage.”

About both plays, she adds, “You’re really looking at the theater in human relationships and the masks that we wear—that’s what a great playwright does.”  


“One for the Road” and “The Lover” runs April 26-May 19 at Center Stage, 1001 Center St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $24-$29. For tickets, call 425-7506. Photo: Steve DiBartolomeo

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