Time and time again in director Dado’s powerful production of Harold Pinter’s 1957 play, it’s hard not to be reminded of the current political climate.
Set in a rundown, English bedsit shared by Rose (Kirsten Fitzgerald) and her uncommunicative husband, Bert (HB Ward), The Room could be read as a lonely, fearful woman’s descent into madness. If the play, which was Pinter’s first, were set in 2016, one could easily imagine Rose as a Donald Trump supporter.
Of course, this being Pinter, the play could also be read many other ways. Straight lines and easy answers were never really his thing. There is not a plot to speak of, honestly, just a series of increasingly ominous and horrifying encounters. Perhaps the reason this play captures the Trumpian mindset so well is because Pinter rarely wrote in ideas, instead working more in feelings, moods, and, most importantly, fears.
The Room begins with a long, entirely one-sided conversation that Rose carries on with Bert while cooking him breakfast. Later their landlord, Mr. Kitt (Anish Jethmalani), enters and creepily reminisces about his dead sister. After Bert and Kitt leave, Rose is beset by a foppish pair of prospective tenants, played by Mierka Girten and Dano Duran. The pair steal Rose’s potatoes, cover her apartment in feathers, and are convinced that this very room is the one that’s been posted as vacant. Through it all, people keep telling Rose about a mysterious, unseen man in the building’s basement who wants a word with her.
As Rose, Fitzgerald is a powerhouse, carefully tracing the thousand spidering cracks across the character’s psyche. The cast as a whole is strong, and the off-kilter, pipe-heavy set by designer Grant Sabin manages to express the play’s paranoid, claustrophobic atmosphere. The weakest part of the play, funnily enough, is the play itself, which spins out in its final act. The Room is very much a first play, and Pinter would soon learn to do more with less. That’s the final reason The Room feels so Trumpy: It’s an example of doing less with more.
A Red Orchid Theatre. By Harold Pinter. Directed by Dado. With Kirsten Fitzgerald, HB Ward, Anish Jethmalani, Mierka Girten, Dano Duran, Jo Jo Brown. Running time: 1hr 10mins; no intermission.