The Collection

In the true spirit of Pinter, Hyde Park Theatre's production is delightfully maddening

Arts Review

The Collection

Hyde Park Theatre, through Oct. 10

Running time: 1 hr, 15 min

Having never committed adultery myself, I can only theorize on the subtle art of deception required to mask an affair. There are details you need to know and details you definitely need not to.

Times. Locations. What someone wore. What someone did to someone else's unmentionables. Whether the affair actually happened or was entirely made up. It's enough to make your head spin, but it's those details that the characters of Harold Pinter's The Collection struggle with, bandy about, and continually deceive themselves and the audience over. Ah, Pinter!

Pinter plays live in the beyond. The horrible, amazing truth lives just beyond the next scene, hopefully, expectantly. Characters talk beyond what other characters know. Motives and meanings, directions and decisions live just out of the audience's perception.

There's this constant feeling that you're missing something, that you'll figure it out soon, only ... only it's Pinter.

And yet for all the looming questions and ominous portents, Pinter's works are incredibly subtle and wickedly comic. It's an intricate balance, but Ken Webster and the Hyde Park Theatre do a wonderful job walking that line with their performance of The Collection.

Bill (Joey Hood), a young dress designer, lives with the older Harry Kane. Their relationship lives somewhere between father and son and boy toy and cantankerous sugar daddy. An anonymous man starts pursuing the neat Bill, and upon their first confrontation we learn that the man, James, wants to meet the man that cuckolded him. Howdy, Bill.

The narrative that follows that revelation plays out like a never-ending status game. For a while, James commands the stage, brimming with the power of victimhood. Bill then trumps him by laying out details of the affair that James never knew. Harry pulls the knowledge right from under them. Anon everything switches, back and forth, status and power and pace. I'm not sure any playwright so vividly captures the power of silence.

If I'm going on about the play and not the production, it's because HPT's staging so truly catches the spirit of Pinter. I was reminded of a quote attributed to Shakespeare at Winedale founder James Ayres: "You're not funny; Shakespeare's funny." In other words, trust the text.

Webster's production trusts The Collection to be funny, dramatic, and engaging. The action is very relaxed, effortless even in its precision. There could be a lot of sound and fury in this did-they/didn't-they affair, but everyone's remarkably civil about the whole thing, which gnaws at the audience's expectations. We want fights, tears, professions of love. What we get is subtlety, silence, maybes. It's all tension and no release, and it's maddening, delightfully maddening.

Hood and Webster work so well together: Hood's Bill is prim, proper, and easily bothered, while Webster's James is cool, collected, unnerving. The acting throughout never seems more or less than it needs to be. And Paul Davis must be commended for another efficient, effective set.

There are so many veiled emotions inside a Pinter play; the relationships ever-changing, the character with the least power ending up with the most. Instead of getting lost, the Hyde Park Theatre cast makes it look easy in this engaging, comedic production.

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The Collection, Hyde Park Theatre, Joey Hood, Ken Webster, Paul Davis, Harold Pinter

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