At Lowell House last weekend
Harold Pinter's "The Room" demands more polish than the Lowell House Drama Group gave it last weekend.
Pinter's play concerns people who run from life (I'm quite happy where I am....We're not bothered. And nobody bothers us.") and the hells they inhabit ("There's not much light in this place is there, Mrs. Hudd?). Pinter creates his multi-levelled allegory by carefully planning tone and symbol; for example, the impression of utter darkness underlies a banal quarrel about whether there were indeed stars in the sky. Obviously such a play de-instance, their laughter must be nervous as well as amused.
Attempting to furnish non-professional, and not-very-time-consuming theater, the drama workshop cannot polish a play as Pinter's requires. It chose to present this work as a "reading-in-motion"; the actors carried scripts to save themselves the extra work of memorizing.
Director Keith Cushman admitted the problems of this method in requiring his actors to memorize their most dramatic lines. But the scripts interfered with even the less significant sequences; this play emphasizes meaningful glances between characters and around the "room," furtive peeks at the script can easily break the mood.
Because of the unusually great importance of sustaining the atmosphere, the few technical difficulties became especially annoying. The new lighting system flickered several times; an easily understood minor disorder in the typical House production becomes a minor disaster in a Pinter play.
The actor's performances also flickered unevenly. Pamela King played Rose, the highly nervous woman who hides from her past and herself in a cold but otherwise fairly comfortable room. Her jerky gestures--especially her habit of pulling her sweater around her defensively--were convincing. But her rheumatism and cracking voice appeared and disappeared with a rapidity which would astound modern science. Generally amusing as the pathetic landlord Mr. Kidd, Elliot Cohen occasionally descended to unnecessary bathos.
"The Room" includes hilarious scenes--and the actors generally rose to them. Cushman paced these episodes well; for example, as Mr. and Mrs. Sands, Garrett Rosenblatt and Diane Kagan superbly presented a rhythmic quarrel.
The play's best moments were its amusing ones, but Pinter's complex creation and the workshop's production did produce a dramatic close despite its unevenness. The audience shares Rose's shock and terror when she cries "Can't see. I can't see. I can't see."