Thursday, March 06, 2014

Revisiting THE HOTHOUSE



This is the poster for the first show I ever saw at Trinity Rep, my hometown theatre and where I eventually trained to be an actor.  It was 1982.  I was 11 years old.  My schoolteacher arranged a field trip to Trinity just so I could meet her friend, the late actor Richard Kavanaugh (he passed away in 1988).  Subsequent to that meeting, my supportive parents brought me to see the show and thereafter made sure I had season tickets.  Through most of the 1980s I saw almost everything there, at a time when some amazing actors were part of the company.  Kavanaugh, Richard Jenkins, Anne Scurria (who is still there), Barbara Meek (also still there), George Martin, Peter Gerety, Daniel Von Bargen -- too many to name.  There were some young up and comers during those years who later became my teachers and friends, like Brian McEleney and Fred Sullivan and a bunch of others.

It started with this production.  It was the American premiere of Harold Pinter's "new-old" play, a play he had drafted in 1958 but threw into a desk drawer, as he felt at the time it had no hope of success.  By his own account, he found the script twenty years later, rather liked it, and produced it himself in London.  Trinity Rep introduced the play to America, in a production I remember as gripping, wildly funny, and mildly terrifying.  It set a very high standard for live theatre that I have been trying to live up to ever since.  The cast of this production was amazing:  Kavanaugh, George Martin, Amy Van Nostrand, Peter Gerety, among others.

The production moved to Broadway, where it won a Tony nomination for Kavanaugh's performance as Gibbs. 

In 2012, I read the play again and was astonished at how relevant it seemed for a play written in the fifties.  Sadly, its major themes remained relevant in the twenty-first century, of dehumanizing bureaucracy, corruption, and sanitized brutality.  There is something timeless about the play, and it does a very deft job of combining humor with a terrible sense of gathering menace.  It's young Pinter and one of his better ones, if you ask me.

This was one of several plays I suggested for the No Strings Theatre Company here in Las Cruces, where I have been working regularly since 2011.  It is also just about the only play everyone agreed upon.  It is a thrill to announce that I will be directing a new production of this play at No Strings for the 2014-5 season.  Opening night is a year away. 

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