It's No Surprise This 'Party' Delivers!
The Birthday Party
Kansas City Actors Theatre
Sometimes a review is much more than a review. Sometimes it educates you. This is one of those. Kansas City Actors Theatre is bringing us the Pinter Project. This involves a production of Harold Pinter's most famous work "The Birthday Party" and three of the playwright's one act plays "The Lover", "The Collection" and "Night". These shows are performed in repertory which in itself is unique for Kansas City. This means one night the full length play and the next the evening of one act plays. (See, you've learned something already.) On a couple of days the troupe presents both for an all day Pinter festival. Since some of the cast appear in both productions it also means a near Herculean task for them!
Pinter is best known as one of the playwrights identified by critic and theatre scholar Martin Esslin as a key component of the Theatre of the Absurd. Some of the characteristics of this movement (according to our friends at Wikipedia) include: broad comedy, horrific or tragic images, hopeless situations, wordplay and characters forced through repetitive and meaningless actions. These works are often identified by a dismissal of the rules of reality or direct parody. "The Birthday Party" has nearly all of these characteristics and the script gives the actors and director some great material to play with.
I have a no-spoilers policy so instead will only quote the KCAT website: "The play takes us to a godforsaken seaside guest house run by Meg and her husband Petey. The only guest is Stanley, a former pianist with a shady past, upon whom Meg dotes. Into this uneasy family come two additional guests, a pair of suspiciously under worldly types who seem to have some unfinished business with Stanley." This setup gives way to some great funny moments and enables the cast to present moments of unease that may leave some wanting to head to the lobby.
Melinda McCrary as Meg is immediately endearing and befuddling. Robert Gibby Brand as her husband Petey provides a solid foundation for the goings on in more ways than one. TJ Chasteen as boarder Stanley provides a good deal of chaos and emotion while becoming a target for the mysterious and sinister actions of Goldberg and McCann played by Mark Robbins and Brian Paulette. Robbins and Paulette provide some truly menacing moments as well as some dazzling banter. Kelly Gibson as Lulu breathes a little life into a character that is just this side of a stereotype.
There are still chances to see "The Birthday Party" so do yourself a favor and go see it, besides you might just learn something.
Want more information on "The Birthday Party", the Pinter Project or Kansas City Actors Theatre? Visit www.kcactors.org.