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Harold Pinter is one of Trent Dawson’s favorite playwrights, so it’s not surprising that as the artistic director of Katonah Classic Stage, he would bring three of the Tony Award winner’s plays to local audiences.
Over the next four weeks Katonah Classic Stage is presenting a Harold Pinter Play Festival, featuring eight performances of “Betrayal” starting this Thursday evening at Whippoorwill Theater in Armonk. Beginning Oct. 19, there will then be eight shows that include two of his shorter works – “The Dumb Waiter” and “Applicant.”
“He loves the kind of the comedy of menace that Harold Pinter brings, he loves his unique style and he loves that you can plum the depths of these plays to no end,” Sharron Kearney, executive director of Katonah Classic Stage and Dawson’s wife, said of her husband’s affinity for Pinter.
“He was saying just with “Betrayal” they’ve turned scenes on their heads multiple times, and each time it actually works. He said that’s the result of someone with just an incredible amount of skill to write in such a way that you can play a scene a dozen different ways and still arrive at a conclusion that makes sense for the show.”
Kearney said the theater company, which launched in 2019, had only planned to present “Betrayal,” one of Pinter’s best-known plays. But shortly afterward, and purely by coincidence, Pacific Resident Theater in Los Angeles, which Dawson had worked with when they lived in southern California in 2015, reached out to Katonah Classic Stage to see if they were interested in having a cast come east to present “The Dumb Waiter” and “Applicant.”
It was then that Dawson and Kearney turned what would have been a single production into a festival.
“This is something we literally dreamed of doing and it just fell into place,” Kearney said.
Audiences will be treated to highly accomplished actors for both productions. “Betrayal,” directed by stage and screen veteran Daniel Gerroll, features three actors with Broadway credits – Richard Hollis, Claire Karpen and Dawson.
“It exposes the vulnerability of the human heart using Pinter’s trademark cut-throat poetry in everyday speech,” Dawson said of “Betrayal.” “Audiences will be swept into an intricate web of human relationships, exploring the complexities of love, loyalty, and deception.”
During the final two weeks, “The Dumb Waiter” and “Applicant” will take over the Whippoorwill Theater stage, directed by Pacific Resident Theater Artistic Director Marilyn Fox. Actor and singer Jason Downs headlines both plays.
“We’ve just been so extraordinarily lucky with all the talent that’s been on our stages and we hope to continue that,” Kearney said.
“The Dumb Waiter” displays some trademark qualities of many of Pinter’s early writings – little information, an atmosphere of menace and a claustrophobic setting. At times, Pinter’s works have received mixed reviews from those who may not fully understand them, Kearney said.
“However, that being said, his plays have been mounted on Broadway multiple times to sold-out houses for months on end,” she said. “There’s certainly a universal appeal to him and we’re hoping that…our reputation will precede us. Not a lot of people knew about the play “Later Life” when we did that in the spring and people walked out saying that was way better than expected.”
It can also be said that things have turned out better than expected for Katonah Classic Stage after being forced into a pandemic-induced shutdown a few months after its debut production of “Oleanna” in late 2019. Kearney said when theaters were able to reopen, there was a hunger among audiences to once again experience what had been lost.
It has also helped that Katonah Classic Stage was able to become the theater company in residence at Whippoorwill Hall early last year, having a home base to operate.
“From a technical standpoint, I think it makes production a whole lot easier, and then when you have the warmth of the audience, it just has been a really good fit,” Kearney said. “We’re happy to be there.”
The eight performances of “Betrayal” will start this Thursday and continue through Oct. 15. On Oct. 19, the first of eight shows of “The Dumb Waiter” and “Applicant” will be presented, concluding on Oct. 29.
For additional information, including the full show schedule and tickets, visit www.katonahclassicstage.com.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/