‘The Caretaker’ with Jonathan Pryce an iconic show

Hassell’s physical movements take on the patterns of speech, as the articulated rhythms of his monologues become poetry.

SHN San Francisco
Jonathan Pryce and Alan Cox (Photo: Shane Reid)
In Review

The Caretaker

4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars - 'Smashing'
Directed by Christopher Morahan
Starring Jonathan Pryce, Alan Cox, Alex Hassel
Through April 22nd
shnsf.com/theatres/curran
Review by
The Caretakers
Jonathan Pryce (Photo: Helen Warner)

The Caretaker is an iconic show that tries the best of actors. In his 2005 Nobel lecture, Pinter opined, “Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive.” In the hands of even a moderately good cast, what Pinter calls “compulsion” can deteriorate into a tedious, teeth teeth-grinding two hours that leaves you pining for intermission.

However, such was not the case in the production of The Caretakers that just opened at the Curran.

With Jonathan Pryce on stage, Davies becomes one of the most extraordinary characters in English-speaking drama.

The quintessential old man who has gone to seed, Davis could find his mates outside the Civic Center BART stop. One is drawn in by how Pryce, who has 30 years experience with this play,  completely inhabits this character. While Pryce received star billing in this production, Alan Cox and Alex Hassel, as Aston and Mick, merit equal credit. Hassell’s physical movements take on the patterns of speech, and the articulated rhythms of his monologues become poetry. This deconstruction of language is not dissimilar from the poetry of Gertrude Stein. Likewise, Cox’s quiet restraint as Aston anchors the work, giving meaning to the character of Davis and Mick, who we see as much in reaction to each other as individual agents.

With Jonathan Pryce on stage, Davies becomes one of the most extraordinary characters in English-speaking drama.

SHN San Francisco
Jonathan Pryce and Alan Cox (Photo: Shane Reid)

The Caretaker is set in a grim attic, lit by a slanted skylight and window, partially covered with a yellowed sheet. The set doesn’t fill the entire stage, but terminates in a hard line, reminding the audience that is a drama they are sharing. Although the entire play takes place in the room, the exterior world is never far behind, with rain pounding on the ceiling, a chill coming through the window, and a train lumbering outside. This relationship between the interior and exterior worlds is embodied in the drama, with Davis’ obsession with going to Sidcup. This reminder of the exterior world subtly reminds the audience how trapped these characters are in lives beyond their control. Like other Pinter plays, this sense of being trapped grows throughout the work, infecting the audience.

While the first act is humorous, the intentionally slow pacing of the second act becomes difficult as more and more of the characters are revealed and we watch them relating to each other across their own delusions.

The Caretaker plays the Curran through April 22nd.

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Cy Ashley Webb
Cy spent the ‘80’s as a bench scientist, the tech boom doing intellectual property law, and the first decade of the millennium, aspiring to be the world’s oldest grad student at Stanford where she is interested in political martyrdom. Presently, she enjoys writing for Stark Insider and the SF Examiner, hanging out at Palo Alto Children's Theatre, and participating in various political activities. Democracy is not a spectator sport! Cy is a SFBATCC member.