Theatre Review: Peretzian Charts ‘No Man’s Land’

Alan Mandell (standing) and Lawrence Pressman in Harold Pinter's "No Man's Land," directed by Michael Peretzian.  Photo by Enci.

Alan Mandell (standing) and Lawrence Pressman in Harold Pinter's "No Man's Land," directed by Michael Peretzian. Photo by Enci.

Venerated playwright Harold Pinter’s enigmatic work “No Man’s Land” is enjoying a brisk and buoyant revival, under Michael Peretzian’s direction, at the Odyssey Theatre on L.A.’s Westside, where it runs through December 13.

Typically, productions of Pinter’s plays are neither “brisk” nor “buoyant.”  Rather, they are frequently and intentionally weighed down – and slowed down – by the menacing silences that serve as a defining element of the Nobel laureate’s writing style.

Peretzian opts for a lighter touch in his approach to “No Man’s Land,” which revolves around an eerie encounter between two sexagenarians – Hirst, a man of letters, and Spooner, a self-proclaimed poet – who may have been friends at university but may well be strangers fabricating a common past.

 

Alan Mandell (l.) and Lawrence Pressman.  Photo by Enci.

Alan Mandell (l.) and Lawrence Pressman. Photo by Enci.

By setting a fluid pace and coaxing humor from Pinter’s script, Peretzian makes an often obscure and exasperating play quite accessible.  In so doing, however, he sacrifices the ever-present tension and potential violence that pulsate through Pinter’s exchanges.  The comedy tames the malice, though Peretzian is no stranger to the dark territory that Pinter’s works tend to explore.

Last year, Peretzian ventured deep into such dark territory with his staging of “Red Dog Howls,” a play by Alexander Dinelaris about the lasting trauma of the Armenian Genocide on a survivor, memorably portrayed by Kathleen Chalfant.

Pinter, a champion of human rights, was a vocal advocate of Genocide recognition.  He was among the British signatories to a public statement issued by an international consortium of scholars and writers – including Israel Charny, Seamus Heaney, Arthur Miller, Wole Soyinka, and Kurt Vonnegut – condemning Turkish denial efforts.  Two years ago, he joined a vigil in front of the Turkish Embassy in London to commemorate the killing, in Istanbul, of Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink.  Pinter himself died this past December, at age 78, after a prolonged battle with cancer.

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