The Caretaker | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Caretaker 

THE CARETAKER, A Sense of Urgency Productions, at Viaduct Theatre. A Sense of Urgency lives up to its name with this purposeful revival of a menacing comedy. In Harold Pinter's minimalist masterpiece, potent props--worn-out shoes, a bucket to catch the rain, an unplugged stove, an unclosed window--speak as sinisterly as the characters: Mick, the aggressive brother who means to develop his junkyard home into a palace; Aston, the passive brother who tries to reach out to the world despite the electroshock treatments he's endured; and Davies, the opportunistic bum Aston befriends, who proceeds to play one brother against the other. This mysterious stranger is creepily evasive and unrepentantly racist, a father figure who repeats the failure of their real father as he pretends to get his life sorted out.

Pathetically passive-aggressive in his supposed helplessness and contemptibly ungrateful, Davies is played by a robotically gesticulating Ian Harris with the unctuous fervor of Uriah Heep. Robert Tobin plays decent, mentally ravaged Aston with the quiet grace of an unwitting survivor; in cunning contrast, Edwin A. Wilson's manic Mick rampages through his sarcastic speeches with sadistic abandon. Less apparent in Rob Cramer's staging is a sense of connection between the brothers. The subtext just isn't there. Worse, the music --including a scattering of 60s hits and an excerpt from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker--fails to suggest this thriller's mounting tension. --Lawrence Bommer

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