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The Lover at Soul Theatre | Theater review

A couple spice up their marriage with elaborate fictions in Harold Pinter’s brief but meaty drama.

Photograph: Johnny KnightThe Lover at Soul Theatre

On his way out the door for work, Richard (Mick Weber) asks his wife, “Is your lover coming today?” Married for ten years, Richard and Sarah (Ravi Batista) appear to have a tense open relationship; as Harold Pinter’s 1962 play unfolds, their dynamic proves to be considerably more complex. Soul Theatre’s revival of Pinter’s short but meaty drama (the company’s first production in five years) is sensually staged by Paul Wagar, although the actors occasionally move too far from the reality of the situation.

To stimulate their relationship, Richard and Sarah have decided to role-play mutual affairs, turning their marriage into a never-ending performance piece. Pinter makes it difficult to know when the characters are acting and when they’re not, making it up to the cast members to make those distinctions clear. While Weber is able to break free from the exaggerated theatricality, Batista has some trouble with the quieter grounded moments.

At the height of their fantasies, Richard and Sarah have fantastic chemistry. It becomes clear that as unorthodox as their method may be, they’ve succeeded in adding spice back into their relationship. To help audience members revitalize their own relationships, each performance of The Lover includes a post-show event such as belly-dance lessons or discussions with local marriage counselors. It’s a clever way to augment the brief play—and these methods are probably safer than Pinter’s manipulative tactics.

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