Battle Lines Drawn, Raven Theatre. We all know Harold Pinter is a great dramatist, but who would have guessed he could be so funny? Raven Theatre director Bill McGough's staging of A Slight Ache, one of two one-acts on this program, eliminates the soporific silences (jocularly known as "pregnant Pinter pauses") that typically punctuate productions of his subtext-heavy plays, instead adopting a breezy pace and flippant tone that make the play's cryptic denouement all the more chilling. The sharp contrast in mood is assisted by Matt Diehl's delightfully over-the-top performance as a fusty middle-class husand who, one fine summer's day, is confronted by a wint'ry golem selling matches door-to-door. The man's terror is exacerbated by the intense interest his wife (played with silky serenity by Donna Smothers) shows in the destitute creature.
Raising the curtain on Raven's "Shorties" program is David Ives's Foreplay, or the Art of the Fugue, a comedy-of-manners romp in which three young rakes attempt to charm their dates with an evening of miniature golf, spouting identical spiels based on subliminal "instant seduction" techniques. One girl falls for it and another puts up a fight, but the third turns the tables on her would-be Don Juan with patter like Whoopi Goldberg's and the putting technique of Tiger Woods.
--Mary Shen Barnidge