Director Joe Mantello and actors Zeljko Ivanek and Sam Rockwell take a stab at two of the seminal one-acts of the latter half of the last century— The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter and The Zoo Story by Edward Albee — at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. The production began on July 15 on the Nikos Stage and will run through Aug. 5.
The Dumb Waiter is one of the earliest plays by Pinter, who is currently the subject of a festival at Lincoln Center. In it, two thugs exchange opaque dialogue as they wait for the details on a mysterious assignment. The Zoo Story is a little clearer in intent, but no less packed with menace. The play begins with an edgy stranger sitting down on a Central Park bench and engaging a fellow, more straight-laced sitter in conversation. Thing go downhill from there, until one of them lies dead.
Sam Rockwell has been seen in independent films such as "Basquiat," "Box of Moonlight" and "Jerry & Tom," as well as mainstream flicks like "Charlie's Angels." Prior to his Hollywood success he performed with such troupes as The New Group. He acted in Williamstown's staging of Lanford Wilson's Hot l Baltimore in 2000, also directed by Mantello.
Ivanek has acted on Broadway in such plays as Richard Nelson's Two Shakespearean Actors and Williams' The Glass Menagerie at the Roundabout Theatre Company.
Mantello has directed a wide variety of fare, including works by Noel Coward (Design for Living) and Jon Robin Baitz (Three Hotels), but is probably best known for his work on Terrence McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion! and Corpus Christi, and for the law suit brought by SSDC on his behalf, against a small Florida theatre company, in protest of what was viewed as a copycat staging of the Off Broadway mounting of Love!. This fall, he will stage Stephen Sondheim's Assassins on Broadway. *
The remaining season will run as follows:
• Street Scene, by Elmer Rice, directed by Michael Grief, Aug. 1-12. Rice's gritty tale of a hot June day and its impact on the inhabitants of a cramped tenement. A cast of 50 is advertised.
• Philadelphia, Here I Come!, by Brian Friel, directed by Kyle Donnelly, Aug. 15-26. Friel's tale of an young Irish man (and his alter ego) trying to make peace with his homeland and his father before setting off for America.
• The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter and The Zoo Story by Edward Albee, directed by Joe Mantello, July 25-Aug. 5. Two classic one-acts from two authors, one British and one American, deeply influenced by Samuel Beckett.
• Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Toward the Somme, by Frank McGuinness, directed by Nicholas Martin, Aug. 9-19. A drama about eight Irish nationalists serving in World War I.
—By Robert Simonson