Nobel Laureate Pinter’s Dark Comedy on Torture, “The Hothouse”, Staged To Stunning Effect
In the late 1950s Harold Pinter (1930-2008) shelved his play, The Hothouse, because he thought it was too far beyond belief. However, as his playwriting career advanced, he deeply explored issues of being trapped and tortured in such remarkable plays as The Homecoming and One For the Road. However, in recent years The Hothouse has been revived and Dark & Stormy Productions has given it a mesmerizing staging at the Grain Belt Bottling House in northeast Minneapolis. This dark comedy has renewed relevance in light of the recent release of the CIA torture report bravely exposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Benjamin McGovern’s direction is more penetrating, passionate, and vulnerable than his very good staging of Pinter’s The Caretaker at the Guthrie a few years back. His actors also electrify as they reveal the play’s searing wit. The Hothouse‘s setting is a sanatorium where a patient has been killed and another impregnated. There is bureaucratized secrecy surrounding the degrading and dehumanizing treatment of those within the institution. Pinter’s use of incomplete sentences and deftly daggered wordsmithing, rendered by the superb cast, enhances the play’s suspicious nature and mystery splendidly. Moreover, there’s an inherent sense of surveillance in the production’s concept as audience members listen to the action they see before them on headsets. The bottling house site is a vast lobby and the miked actors play at various points within that vastness. It’s as if we are always eavesdropping.