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Theater Group Does Pinter Proud

December 4, 2009

The Little Theatre Group of Costa Rica pays tribute to the recently deceased Harold Pinter with its production of the English playwright’s first commercial success, “The Caretaker,” now in its last weekend at San José’s Laurence Olivier Theater.

Almost 50 years after it was first performed in London, the existentialist play continues to engage audiences with its raw look into the painful beauty of human existence.

On Lisa Roberto Leiva’s small, junkfilled set recreating the dismal room where the action takes place, the plot remains unchanged: Aston, played by Robert Baker, a quiet man living in a house in West London, takes in the homeless Davies, portrayed by Noel Montagano. Aston eventually offers Davies a job as caretaker of the house. Aston’s brother, Mick, played by Tom Humes, torments the homeless man when his brother is away, though he too ends up offering Davies the job of caretaker. Irritated by the old man, Aston eventually kicks him out.

In Pinter’s world, silence and the spoken word mingle to expose what is simmering beneath the surface of seemingly innocuous conversation. As directed by Roberto Leiva, this production successfully brings out much of that dynamic. Montagano plays a surprisingly convincing Davies, despite having been called in just eight days before opening night. Humes’ sharp features add credence to his character’s fierce, intimidating personality, and Baker’s boy-next-door looks and calm mannerisms mask his character’s instability.

While the play remains unaltered, the venue adds a unique dimension. The small stage helps create a claustrophobic set that heightens the already agitated emotions. The audience intimately wraps around the stage in a steep half moon. Adding to the familiarity, audience members carry in bottles of beer and water, and the smell of popcorn permeates the second-act air, all of which augments the already voyeuristic tension between the characters and the audience.

If there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel, it is that each character possesses a dream. Though it is unclear if they will ever move beyond simple verbalizing, it is the existentialist persistence that gives hope.

Remaining performances of “The Caretaker” are tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m., at the Laurence Olivier Theater on Calle 28, Avenida 2, next to Sala Garbo. Reservations for the play and for special lunch or dinner and hotel packages may be made online at www.littletheatregroup.org or by calling 8858-1446.

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