Students invited to 'Birthday Party' this weekend

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Oct. 5, 2006 


No invitations are necessary to attend IU Department of Theater & Drama's production of "The Birthday Party" by Harold Pinter. Opening 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Ruth N. Halls Theatre, this bizarre mystery guarantees to leave audience members with something to think about.

The play takes place in northern England at a boarding house run by a couple, Petey and Meg, whose daily interactions are filled with routine and inane conversation. The story focuses on their sole boarder, Stanley, a pianist running from his mysterious past. On his birthday, two strange men -- Goldberg and McCann -- show up looking for him. The plot then nosedives into a whirlwind of irrational and disturbing events.

"It's not traditional in the sense of American realism. He (Pinter) takes some turns that are unexpected," said graduate student Jeff Grafton, who plays Goldberg. "He doesn't spell out the details."

Director Dale McFadden helped the cast sort through Pinter's characters and layers. Graduate student Allison Moody, who plays Meg, said McFadden's strong ideas of the time and place helped establish a reference for the cast, who from there developed the play through trial and error.

Pinter, winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in literature, wrote "The Birthday Party" with absurdist elements -- times, places and events are indefinite.

"(Pinter) doesn't answer anything for you ... the audience fills in the rest," Moody said.

Sophomore Josh Hambrock, who plays Stanley, admires Pinter's ability to really capture how people converse. Pinter writes closest to the way people talk and captures the gaps in conversation, which may seem abnormal to a viewer's ear because they expect the perfect theatrical dialogue that is generally heard, Hambrock said.

"Some people are going to get it, some will claim to get it, some will like it or dislike it ... but they will take home a new or familiar feeling," Hambrock said. "It really gets to you. It's like a David Lynch movie. Even if people don't like it, for whatever reason, they're going to leave with some feeling that Pinter wanted to convey."

Grafton spoke of the "Pinter pause" -- the director's way of creating meaning between the lines of dialogue.

"(As the play develops,) the pauses increase; it's a device he uses to increase tension," Grafton said. "He places pauses in spaces where the character can take a million different journeys. It keeps you on your toes."

Although it is a complex play that involves lots of thinking on behalf of the viewer, Moody said that she hopes the production awakens people to the greatness of Pinter. The other cast members include graduate students Harper Jones as Petey and Dawn Thomas as Lulu and sophomore Matt Thompson Gripe as McCann.


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