Highly recommended

Hedy Weiss, theater critic
Chicago Sun-Times
April 7, 1998

The plays of Harold Pinter are mysteries wrapped in enigmas. And the best productions of his work are those that illuminate the individual puzzle pieces while retaining their overall elusive quality.

This is precisely what director Ina Marlowe and her exceptional cast have done in the Organic Touchstone Company staging of Pinter's 1993 play "Moonlight." I confess I was underwhelmed by this 75-minute piece when I first saw it several years ago on Broadway, with a cast that features Jason Robards and Blythe Danner. But in Marlowe's fluid and exquisitely articulated version, the betrayals of husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and lovers, feel like deep, fresh cuts made with thin, sharp blades. And the humor that grows out of the characters' anger, loss and bitterness is both maniacal and sad.

"Moonlight" is a deathbed drama, rich in the archly poetic language, the triangulated relationships and the "Rashomon"-like memory devices that have long been hallmarks of Pinter's plays.

Andy (William J. Norris) is an elderly, acid-tongued former civil servant who is looking for "a loophole" to death, even though he knows there is none. Bel (Roslyn Alexander), his still attractive and self-possessed wife, sits by his bed, inhales his rebukes and matches them when required. Early on in the marriage, Andy had an affair with Bel's best friend, Maria (the estimable Caitlin Hart). Bel later did the same, taking up with the seafarer and referee, Ralph (neatly played by Raoul Johnson).

As he breathes his last, Andy wonders why his sons refuse to come and say goodbye. But he has betrayed them in some way, and now they are getting their revenge, even though it is at a great emotional price to themselves.

Jake (Larry Russo) and his younger brother, Fred (Steven J. Anderson), communicate as if they are members of Monty Python. Their brilliant, demented banter is the self-protective volleying of two people who cannot express their pain in any literal way. When their mother phones and begs them to visit their dying father, they launch into a routine about laundry. It is devastating.

Marlowe has paired her actors to splendid effect. Russo turns in a complex, aggressive, technically flawless performance, while Anderson, an intense and highly polished performer, vividly evokes Fred's damaged soul with a mix of icy withdrawal and childlike terror. As their sister, Bridget — a ghostly figure who walks by moonlight — Jessica Young uses her lilting voice and beautifully tuned diction to create a mournful, emotionally haunted atmosphere.

Norris, crusty, cruel and wickedly funny, allows just a flicker of regret and despair to cross his face from time to time. And Alexander, an actress of surprising elegance and intelligence, is a Pinter natural. With a catlike smile, an averted eye or an ironic intonation, she makes whole histories spring to the surface. Yet she remains, like Pinter's play, enigmatic to the end.

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