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The Caretaker

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THE CARETAKER Jonathan Pryce stars in an impressive but typically enigmatic revival of Harold Pinter's head-scratching drama
Richard Termine

The Caretaker

Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Patrick Stewart
David Jones (Director)

We gave it a B+

The mysterious old man named Davies in The Caretaker first drifted into the lives of the enigmatic brothers named Aston and Mick on the London stage 52 years ago. Ever since, audiences have been challenged by Harold Pinter’s career-making 1960 play, a three-man tussle of rages and ruminations set in a junk-filled attic apartment that serves as the home-decorating manifestation of existential crisis — a stage as jammed with stuff as a Samuel Beckett evocation would be stripped of same. Director Christopher Morahan’s astringent revival of this mid-century mind-game, running through June 17 at the BAM Harvey Theater, arrives in Brooklyn some two and a half years after its run at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre. And in that time, Jonathan Pryce has clearly molded into the role of Davies with an authority as commanding as that of the character trying on a pair of shoes donated by his quieter, more hospitable, more damaged brother Aston (Alan Cox, convincingly conveying sadness and emotional injury with the set of his shoulders).

The fine, versatile, 65-year-old Pryce flexes and shifts, lunges and steps with mature control as a kind of kitchen sink (or is it attic-heap?) King Lear. (As it happens, that’ll be Pryce’s next role, at London’s Almeida Theatre.) Loose-limbed and rubber-faced, in an impressive dustbin wardrobe (by costume designer Dany Everett) and his own authentically straggly beard, Pryce makes his Davies a man for all seasons of modern manly decay.

Aston ”rescues” Davies from a beating — although he’d never agree with the term — and offers him a place to bed down, but Davies receives Aston’s generosity with a kind of majestic disgruntlement, the ornery pride of a man who knows who he is, even if he can?t quite lay his hands on the papers that’ll prove his identity. Aston, meanwhile, is locked in a complicated fraternal relationship with the more menacing Mick (Rufus Sewell look-alike Alex Hassell, showing a sexy edge), who is also the building landlord. An understanding of who is caretaking whom is just one of the conundrums that Pinter poses but never quite answers. Other unresolved questions include: Why does Mick hide in Aston’s apartment at odd moments? Why is the play so enigmatic? Why so circular? Why so depressing and head-banging a situation? And why so angry? Here, in this inevitably alienating, if impressive, production, Pinter’s The Caretaker feels very British, very 1960s, and very — well — Pinteresque. B+

(Tickets: BAM.org or 718-636-4100)