The Dumb Waiter | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Dumb Waiter


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The Dumb Waiter, Saint Ed Theater Company, Rhino in Winter festival, at Live Bait Theater. Pinter is the undisputed master of the mundane. In his 1960 one-act The Dumb Waiter two hapless gunmen idle away the morning in a seemingly abandoned apartment building waiting for instructions on their next hit. They talk about little beyond subtrivialities--a disputed penalty in a long-ago soccer match, the design on the crockery in the kitchen, a news report of an eight-year-old who killed a cat. Of course, as in all of Pinter's masterpieces of indirection, the flood of fatuousness masks the nearly unbearable tension of the characters' predicament.

Played well, The Dumb Waiter can nearly asphyxiate an audience with its excruciating hilarity. Saint Ed's hesitant production achieves the necessary suffocating suspense only in rare moments, usually when Pinter provides it gratis--an unmarked envelope slides under the door, for example, or a dumbwaiter clatters down with a note instructing the men to send up an order of shrimp scampi. Director Sean Gunn choreographs the nonaction nicely, emphasizing the text's Godot-like vaudeville routines. But for the better part of the evening, actors Lee Kirk and Valentine Miele are left alone, struggling to find the stakes that might bring the play fully to life. --Justin Hayford

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