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Mayhem and mystery in a dark and tragic comedy

April 1, 2011

by Valeriya Ponomarova

Poster advertising The Hothouse, a play by Harold Pinter, directed by David Girard (Courtesy – David Girard)

The Hothouse, a comedy laced with tragedy and the struggle for power, is scheduled for presentation as a fully staged reading this weekend at the Steamer No. 10 Theatre.

Originally written in the late 1950s by Harold Pinter, an English playwright, and revisited in 1980, The Hothouse is a play that combines dark comedy with mystery, deception and violence. It is set in a state-run institution that is not clearly defined; it could either be a rest home or an insane asylum. The institution is controlled by a man named Roote who is slowly losing his mind.

Starting out slow, the play heats up, literally, as chaos breaks out in the institution and things begin to fall apart. Mayhem erupts as one of the patients is suddenly murdered and another unexpectedly gives birth; and a question arises: who is really in control?

Directed by David Girard, The Hothouse is performed by a total of seven cast members, most of whom are professionals. It is hosted by the Steamer No. 10 Theatre at 500 Western Ave. near the Mobil station and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Performances start today at 8 p.m.; Saturday at both 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 3 p.m. Admission is free.

The Steamer No. 10 Theatre. (Valeriya Ponomarova)

“It has to do with loss of identity,” said Girard. An acceptable way to view the play is to think of the institution in which the story takes place as a “political prison,” he said. In the play, there are elements of isolation and bureaucracy.

Girard chose to direct The Hothouse because Pinter is one of his favorite modern playwrights. Even though this play is not one that is produced often, Girard likes it because he understands a lot of what the play is about, and aside from that, it contains numerous great lines, and is both “dark, but also incredibly funny,” he said.

The Hothouse is presented by an organization called Theater Voices, which has been performing at Steamer No. 10 for about seven years now. It is part of the Eclectic Performance Series, adult entertainment that usually runs in the evenings.

Ric Chesser, 58, is the executive director of the Steamer No. 10 Theatre.

“Having seen some of the rehearsals, it’s… really good…they’ve got good feelings for the characters…it will be an amazing show,” said Chesser, who has been overseeing cast rehearsals and will be there to see that everything runs according to plan.

Ric Chesser (left) and David Girard (right) in the entryway to the Steamer No. 10 Theatre. (Valeriya Ponomarova)

“All the characters are very interesting. You’re not always sure what’s going on. Some of the situations are bizarre,” said Shannon Rafferty, a recent college graduate and a professional actress who is also a member of the Actors’ Equity Association since 2006. She will be acting as Miss Cutts, a challenging persona and a mistress of Roote.

She auditioned for The Hothouse because she enjoyed doing other Pinter works and finds him and his creations interesting. She said that a lot of the story is left to the imagination of the audience, but she likes that about the play. She also said that the actors that she works with are fantastic and bring a lot to the table, and that she enjoys working with Girard as director.

“I hope it’s successful. I hope the audience enjoys it,” said Rafferty.

Even though the script and the characters created by Pinter in The Hothouse may be a bit challenging and hard to understand, the director and the cast have had a good time preparing for this presentation and have hopes that the audience will be entertained and be able to get a feel for what the play is really about.

Girard hopes that the audience is able to understand the thought and effort that he and the cast members put into the

A drama review by Paul Strausman of “Barefoot in the Park”, a comedy by Neil Simon. It was published in the Inscape on Sept. 15, 1989

performance. Most of the actors that will be performing in The Hothouse are well-known and are friends among each other. Girard said that they have had a good time preparing for this show.

“If the audience can sit back and watch and enjoy it, great; and if they can sit back, close their eyes, and listen to it and still have the same effect…that would be awesome,” said Girard, “come see the show!” -30-

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