Third Wall Productions turns Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter on its head by reversing the gender of its main characters.
Should you see it?
The theatre of the absurd is what initially drew me to become such a theatre lover. Writers like Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter have always kept me engaged even when their material is quite similar. Case in point, Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter is similar to my personal favorite by Beckett, Waiting for Godot; they’re simply plays about two men waiting for an event to occur while everything crumbles around them.
In the Dumb Waiter, we find Ben and Gus – or Benita and Augusta, in this instance – two hit (wo)men who are waiting to receive instructions regarding their next target. Their interactions become increasingly animated, illogical and nonsensical, all while a dumb waiter in the room delivers food orders that they have no means to fill.
Third Wall Productions, in partnership with 100 Watt and The Acting Company, makes a significant change in the production by reversing the gender of the characters. Kristina Watt as Benita and Mary Ellis as Augusta both deliver top notch performances. It truly felt like they were living the content, instead of just performing it.
Reversing the genders in The Dumb Waiter is interesting because it adds extra irony to a play that involves a lot of talk about the subjugation of women or those that display feminine attributes. For example, Benita and Augusta laugh off a news story about an 8-year-old girl who killed a cat, saying that women can’t kill. The funny part is that the irony is completely lost on them.
The Dumb Waiter is hilarious, but not in the sense that you feel comfortable to laugh out loud, at all. The humor is so dark that you catch yourself, for fear of being judged. Both Watt and Ellis take advantage of this and play into these silences. The longer the silence, the more absurd the ensuing conversation will be and the more uncomfortable the audience feels. A lot is left up to interpretation as we slowly start to piece together who the next target may or may not be, and how our two characters will react when they find out.
Having read The Dumb Waiter before made it all the more interesting to see it play out. This production makes a short yet complicated text understandable. I found myself appreciating the characters even more; the ferocious Benita and Augusta, whose physical humor, naiveté and misaligned innocence became endearing.
The Avalon Studio can only hold 60 people. It’s cramped, crowded and hot, but the performances are definitely going to be ones to remember!
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. What did you think of the gender switch-up? Let me know in the comments below!
The Dumb Waiter runs at The Avalon Studio Friday through Sunday until March 30, 2014.