[NOTE: Samuel French, the play publisher, has allowed The Wooster Group to perform Harold Pinter’s never before seen “The Room” — but has forbidden press to review the LA performances. So this is not a review, but something more like a daydream.]
What if Harold Pinter had penned a play — his very first attempt — and then shut it away in a drawer? What if a daring and inventive theatre company were to perform it?
Such a play could have a simple theme: say, a working-class English couple living in a one-room apartment, facing a possible threat to their continued tenure. It might aptly be called The Room.
Suppose a company like, say, the Wooster Group (an award-winning off-Broadway troupe with a 40-year track record) got hold of it and decided to stage it. And suppose that after a New York premiere, they wanted to show it in LA — they might do it at REDCAT, where their Early Shaker Spirituals was a hit just a year ago.
And their staging of it? Well, we’ve seen Pinter’s claustrophobic shabby households, filled with looming menace, for the last 50 years. Maybe Wooster would open it up. Maybe they’d blow away the walls, and put the light and sound desks right onstage instead. Maybe they’d scatter microphones among the worn furniture, and have actors speak through them, sometimes.
Maybe, at the same time — being hyper-faithful to the text even while they’re blowing it apart — they’d have one actor reading the stage directions. Maybe they’d take their inspiration for all this from a Paul Schmidt quote: “The author fixes the text in his own time, the director in his staging inscribes it in his.”
So, then, we’d have Pinter’s handful of semi-communicative folks, enclosed in a rather dingy 1950s living space, saying their banal remarks or being ominously silent — and every now and then letting their deep emotions burst through a commonplace phrase like a spurt of lava through a fumarole.
But we’d also have the post-2000 world, filled with electronics and gadgets and the transparency of private space (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). And these intrusive media — which mimic our intrusion as audience, peering through the fourth wall — might focus on and heighten Pinter’s famous pauses and silences.
All of this might be challenging to watch, yet fascinating. It might feel almost as if we’re watching a composer transform folk song into a symphony. Or like we’re peering over a monk’s shoulder as he copies the text in precise letters, then fills the margins with colorful images of dragons.
It would definitely be an hour not to miss, for anyone who loves — and thinks about — theatre. Or for any Pinter fans who wouldn’t recoil at seeing the master’s work freely played with.
I sure hope it happens.
The Room, (as we might call it), by Harold Pinter, directed (as we imagine it) by Elizabeth LeCompte.
Presented (if wishes were horses) by The Wooster Group at REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St., downtown LA 90012.
Sunday, Feb. 7 at 3:00;
Tuesday through Saturday, Feb. 9-13, at at 8:30;
Sunday, Feb. 14 at 3:00.
(If you show up, who knows, the fantasy might take form.)
Tickets: (for everyone but the press) 213-237-2000.