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Atlantic’s Pinter Double Bill New York Times review

Atlantic Theater Company’s first main stage production of its season, THE COLLECTION & A KIND OF ALASKA: TWO PLAYS BY HAROLD PINTER opened last night to critical acclaim. Read Ben Brantley’s New York Times review.

THE NEW YORK TIMES – November 23, 2010

Essence of Pinterland, a Terrain Both Warm and Flecked With Ice

By Ben Brantley

What a joy to find actors so at ease with the uneasiness of Harold Pinter. In Karen Kohlhaas’s first-rate productions of Pinter’s “Collection” and “A Kind of Alaska” for the Atlantic Theater Company, five performers quietly send off distress signals with a fluency that leaves you grinning at such stylishly realized discomfort.

Well, that’s true at least with “The Collection,” the top of the double bill that opened Monday night at the Classic Stage Company on 13th Street in the East Village. Watching “A Kind of Alaska,” in which Lisa Emery gives one of the most affectingly detailed performances now on a New York stage, you’re more likely to be next to tears. In both cases you’ll marvel anew at the unexpected, concentrated forms of self-expression that a Pinter play affords the right cast.

Neither of these works is in the literary league of Pinter masterpieces like “The Homecoming” and “No Man’s Land.” Written two decades apart, and in very different emotional keys, they are not as tightly of a piece or as teasingly subtle as top-drawer Pinter can be.

“The Collection” (1961), an exercise in the geometric possibilities of an infidelity that may or may not have taken place, is almost gaudy in comparison with “Betrayal,” Pinter’s exquisite assessment of an adulterous relationship from 1978. And “A Kind of Alaska” (1982), inspired by Dr. Oliver Sacks’s accounts of patients awakening from decades-long comas, plucks more blatantly at the heartstrings than any other Pinter play.

Yet as staged here “The Collection” and “Alaska” are deeply engaging and entertaining in a way Pinter too seldom is in American incarnations, in which nuances of timing and emphasis (not to mention accents) are often fumbled.

It feels in no way anticlimactic that this should be the first major New York production of works by Pinter, a Nobel laureate in literature, since his death at 78 in 2008.

This show provides an inviting gateway to audiences new to one of the greatest of British playwrights, while reminding disciples of the human warmth within his icy mazes.

Read the rest of the review: http://theater.nytimes.com/2010/11/23/theater/reviews/23collection.html

Directed by Atlantic founding member Karen Kohlhaas and starring Atlantic Theater Company members Larry Bryggman and Matt McGrath and guest artists Lisa Emery, Rebecca Henderson and Darren Pettie, THE COLLECTION & A KIND OF ALASKA: TWO PLAYS BY HAROLD PINTER has been extended through December 19 Off-Broadway at Classic Stage Company (136 East 13th Street).

For schedule and ticket information for Atlantic Theater Company main stage productions and Atlantic Stage 2, call 212-645-1242 or visit:

www.atlantictheater.org

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