The Hothouse | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Hothouse, Ulysses Theatre Company, at Angel Island. It's Christmas, but there's little peace on earth at the Ministry Convalescent Home. One patient has recently died, another has given birth to a child, and rumor has it members of the asylum staff are responsible for both events. The administrative chairman is on the verge of a mental breakdown, paranoia and factionalism abound, the communications systems are malfunctioning, and revolution is in the air.

The political analogy may be clearer in The Hothouse than in most of Harold Pinter's other plays (and rendered even more obvious by this production, in which everything in the room, even the coffee creamer and desk-drawer whiskey, bears the ministry emblem), but its interpretation still requires actors to hint at turmoil beneath a placid surface. Under the direction of Patrick Rybarczyk, however, all but one actor in this Ulysses Theatre Company production dispense with subtext to strike attitudes and sound their single notes. Only Jason Walton as a security guard, slowing his delivery to exploit every opportunity for humor and nuance, creates a life for his character beyond what Pinter has written--and actually seems to have fun doing it. Additional texture is provided by Christopher Simmonds's well-chosen sound design.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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