Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a rehearsal for Rowan Lab Theatre’s newest production of “The Dumb Waiter” by British playwright Harold Pinter.
The very limited cast includes the two talented actors Mattie Millet, who plays Gus, and Tyler Davis, who plays Ben. The show is directed by Michael Majewski and stage-managed by Marisela Grau.
In this rare gem of abstract theater, Mattie and Tyler play polar-opposite partners working for a mysterious and seemingly allusive organization. Stuck in a dimly-lit basement – with an incredibly atmospheric sound design by Mike Landolfi – the pair await their next assignment.
Arguments occur, anticipation runs high and just when it seems like Gus and Ben are at their wits’ end, a dumbwaiter is sent down carrying a very confusing message. Can the two figure out what it means, or will their own differences pull them apart?
The set had a minimalist design, a token of the poor living conditions the pair is met with. Two beds, a dumbwaiter and two walls are really all the show has– or needs, for that matter. Audience members will make up the remaining two walls surrounding the duo – a move that is every bit intentional.
“It always made me feel claustrophobic,” Majewski said. “Not just the fact that the characters are stuck in a room the whole time but just the monotony, the silence, the control from the person upstairs, Ben’s control over Gus… It just felt very claustrophobic. So when I found out I was able to do it in this space, I wanted to shrink the space even more.”
The one-act is unique in its limited cast. Two characters make up the whole show and as such, each has a unique and strong personality. Their personalities are what drive the show and make the nuances of character action and language that much more entertaining.
“I think the theme of control through the use of language and silence is one that I really focused on. Ben has control over Gus through language, through what he allows her to say and not say. Ben uses silence. Silence can be a violent thing,” Majewski said. “Stopping speech is a violent thing and I think that is something that we are exploring a lot.”
When asked to describe their distinctive characters Davis responded with “stern,” “impatient,” and “violent,” while Millet described Gus as “creative,” “mischievous” and “honest.” These descriptions highlight just how different these characters are which only works to add to the obscureness and intrigue.
A limited cast also means Millet and Davis have to work extremely hard to memorize all the lines and make the performance engaging for the audience.
“It’s like a reminder of how tiring theater really is when you’re actually putting all of the emotion into it that it deserves,” Millet said.
“It looks so normal but we’re working so hard,” Davis added.
“The Dumb Waiter” will open on March 3 and run through March 6 in Bunce’s Blackbox Theater – Room 159. Tickets will become available online for $10. For Rowan students with a valid student ID, admission is free. Be sure to reserve your seats before they sell out.
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