Set in the far corner of Wilbury Theatre’s expansive new “playground,” Harold Pinter’s classic psychological drama, “The Caretaker,” is given a compelling production by three talented actors. Under the capable direction of Steve Kidd, Pinter’s absurdist play is simple and confusing, funny and sad, hopeful and hopeless.
The plot is quite basic and sparse. Aston (Joe Short) invites Davies, an aging homeless man (Richard Donnelly) into his cluttered flat after saving him from a bar fight. Davies is not even his real name and you never really know when and if he is telling the truth. It doesn’t take him long to establish his presence and become critical of his benefactor. Into the mix comes Aston’s brother, Mick (Josh Short), a volatile, overpowering individual who intimidates Davies.
Kidd has melded the play from three to two acts, making good use of the two-level set to change time and bring the three characters in and out, confronting and challenging each other at every turn. These are damaged, lonely people, searching for something that always seems out of their reach, fearing and not trusting one another. While the play is very dark, there are moments of humor, including a scene where the three men spar over Davies’ bag. It is almost equivalent to a Three Stooges skit, breaking the tension built before and after it.
The play also contains a long soliloquy, where Aston tells us of electric shock treatment and its effects on him. Short plays his character subtlety, his brother (literally) plays his forcefully – and it works. I have a slight problem with Pinter’s need to overstate and repeat, which can be grueling at times.
The good news is that the actors have caught the intent of the author and fleshed out the strengths and weaknesses of their characters. “The Caretaker” is a difficult play for both actors and audience. It does allow you to get inside the heads of three losers and, at times, feel their pain. If you can take Pinter, you will have a chance to see three brilliant actors interpret his words in a most compelling manner.
“The Caretaker” is at Wilbury’s new home, 40 Sonoma Court in Olneyville through October7. The theatre is right off of Olneyville Square near the Steel Yard and the Woonasquatucket River (Google it). Call 400-7100 for tickets.