| Chicago Reader

The Pinter Plays, Clock Productions, at National Pastime Theater. In Harold Pinter's The Collection two dress designers--a heterosexual woman and a homosexual man--play a prank on their mates, giving them conflicting stories of an out-of-town quickie together. Straight Jimmy is intrigued, but gay Harry is skeptical. "Don't you know your wife?" he asks the befuddled husband, then demonstrates a far superior knowledge of his own partner's caprices.

Dylan Ehrenburg directs a smart production of this rarely done play, the first of three Pinter one-acts on the program. Seductive nuance, provocative phrasing, and genuine affection--a feeling conspicuously absent from most interpretations of Pinter--mark both relationships. And the same warmth is suggested by Ehrenburg's staging of Victoria Station, in which Michelle Power is unconventionally cast as the impatient dispatcher; her fast-paced repartee with Brian Bogulski's slacker cabbie hints that a sexual dimension underlies their workplace rapport.

Stichomythic delivery works against The Dumb Waiter, however. Minimal scenery too often pushes the action upstage, forcing the performers to face away from the audience and thus muffling dialogue already blurred by heavy regional dialects. Coming after two such freshly conceived and brightly executed efforts, this play can't help but disappoint. Still, for an investment of less than two hours, this showcase scores acceptably.

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