Two British hit men sit in a dingy basement. Their only connection to the outside world is via a dumbwaiter, apparently rigged to an upstairs café. They jaw at each other, read trivial newspaper articles aloud and have problems with a faulty toilet. They receive orders for elaborate dishes through the dumbwaiter, but they don't know who the sender is. All the while they await the command for a mysterious kill.
So what's really going on here?
That question is the enigma and driving force behind Harold Pinter's “The Dumb Waiter,” the inaugural production at Bébé Café in Old Town. "In a backhanded way,” says director Frank Melcori, a 12-year veteran of the Burque theater scene, “it makes this comment of, Why are we even here at all in terms of what we're doing with ourselves?"
The one-act play premiered in 1960. It’s a staple of the era's absurdist theater movement, highlighted by the likes of Pinter, Edward Albee and Samuel Beckett. If the scenario of “Dumb Waiter” sounds vaguely familiar, that's probably because it owes quite a bit to Beckett's Waiting for Godot, which also pits two men in a bleak, existential dilemma, shrouded by fears of the unknown. The argument can also be made that Martin McDonagh's In Bruges is not much more than an animated, violent retelling of Pinter's classic. “There's an underlying violence in Pinter," says Melcori. "That kind of invisible violence that's there. The unnamable fear that appears. McDonagh just takes it a step further and physicalizes it.”
Starring in the production are Scott Sharot as Gus and Jeff Silverman as Ben. Gus is the more plebeian, concerned chap. Ben takes on airs of superiority, castigating Gus while hiding from him a secret that’s at the heart of the their murky premise.
Melcori says he’s kept much of the play’s underpinnings intact—the Cockney accents, questions of class tension and overall strangeness that Pinter is known for. But his production has less of the awkward silences that mark the works of Beckett and Pinter. "If I were to stage it directly as it was written, it would get a little tedious," Melcori says. "So I'm just playing it a little bit more naturally." But, he adds, "it's still as weird a story as you can get."