LET ME GO, LOVER
I’ll be the first to admit as a twenty-something that I don’t know what it’s like to feel like your sex life has passed you by – something I’m told that many couples experience in their later years. Harold Pinter’s one-act The Lover seeks to explore one middle-aged couple’s attempt to spice things up by creating fictional affairs and role-playing as each other’s extramarital lovers. It is my sincere hope that my love life is never as stale as the Soul Theatre’s production of The Lover.
Soul Theatre bills itself as a company dedicated to putting on get-happy, joy-inspiring theatre. This goal immediately puts to question their choice of any of Pinter’s work. However, they ultimately succeed in their attempt to make The Lover as innocuous as possible – in fact, it is sterilized. Pinter’s script is filled with ardent power struggles, immense sexual volatility, and understated, tense passion. That simply isn’t here. For a play about heating things up, this production feels tepid at best.
Though exceptionally beautiful, Ravi Batista offers us little more than a Lady Marmalade leg-kick and a quiet smirk as Sarah. And playing Richard, who embraces a sharp wit and a good sense of humor, Mick Weber doesn’t bring much of either. There doesn’t seem to be much character development or even chemistry here. With Pinter’s highly ambiguous script, this development is much needed and exceptionally difficult to pull off. But if you’re not going to bring it, then don’t do Pinter.
I will say for the actors that there are some believable moments between the two, but they are quickly undone by director Paul Wagar’s staging, which feels unnatural within the space. Grant Sabin’s set is a rather bleak-looking grey living room with a black couch and a bar that suggests that the two are semi-pro drinkers. Under Wagar’s direction (his Chicago directorial debut), Sarah and Richard never look at home in the space. He keeps their interactions, even the most intimate ones, about as bland as the elevator music he chooses for the scene changes.
The Lover marks the Soul Theatre’s first full production in seven years, as well as their first Equity production, utilizing the A Red Orchid Theatre’s space for their three week engagement. Regarding Soul Theatre’s mission (“Scatterbrain sweetness runs through our veins”), who isn’t a fan of feel-good theatre? But what makes us feel the best is, well, good theatre. Unfortunately, this is where The Lover fails to deliver.
photos by Johnny Knight
Soul Theatre at A Red Orchid in Chicago
scheduled to end on July 15
for tickets, http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/251297
for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit http://www.TheatreinChicago.com