by Gene Marrano
Miriam Frazier, artistic director for the GAMUT amateur theater troupe, calls Harold Pinter’s “The Lover,” a one-act work that she will direct for its upcoming run at Studio Roanoke, a “very sexy, weird play,” that will make some in the audience “uncomfortable.” And that’s okay with Frazier and with the GAMUT group, which likes to push the boundaries a bit with the works it has offered over the past few years for local patrons of live theater.
GAMUT (Gypsies and Misfits Unknown Theater), which has been based at several venues recently, will offer “The Lover” by Pinter, the legendary British playwright, at Studio Roanoke for two weekends beginning Thursday July 7. Frazier won’t give away the exact details as to how this version will be staged, but described it in a release as exploring “the divided self and compartmentalized life, using a middle class married couple as the vehicle.”
“The Lover” has been staged elsewhere both as a drama and as a comedy. Frazier likes Pinter’s sense of humor, observing “he melds anguish and wit seamlessly together and he can do it in fewer words than most anyone else.” In some versions one actor plays two characters – both the husband and a lover – but Frazier is tight lipped as to how it will all play out in Roanoke. “You’ll have to come watch,” she says.
“This is about two people who love each other and feel passionately about each other [but] they are trapped inside a suburban, middle class marriage,” said Frazier, who works for Virginia Tech when not involved with GAMUT. “They are trying to find a way to connect inside that arena,” looking for the spark that attracted them in the first place.
“Pinter wrote many one act plays and even rough sketches that were never fully fleshed out,” noted Frazier. The use of silence and pregnant pauses in key spots is a signature Pinter tool, even “labeled as ‘Pinteresque’ within the industry,” according to Frazier. “What I think people fail to realize about Pinter is that he is hilarious. He has an extremely dark and dry sense of humor.”
Frazier labels “The Lover” a comic drama and one that will challenge audiences. She intentionally cast a married couple (Michael Mansfield, Amanda Mansfield) in the lead roles, feeling they would best understand the dynamics of such a situation, “the trappings of marriage. They’ve been great to work with.”
A dance element will be added as an interlude during the play, a feature not written into “The Lover” by Pinter. Frazier is working with Elyse Daye Hart and Trey Mitchell on that aspect. The couple works both in Roanoke and in New York.
Frazier said she first “fell in love” with “The Lover” in college more than 20 years ago, and waited all this time to mount a production. Those in their late 30’s and 40’s may appreciate it more than younger people, but all who come can find elements they can identify with. “The Lover” also gives small ensembles like GAMUT “a lot to really work with – and it has. We’re looking for things that stretch us, stretch the actors and will stretch the audience.” Frazier wants patrons to leave discussing what they just saw on stage. “‘The Lover’ is definitely a show you will want to talk about.”
“The Lover” by Harold Pinter opens July 7 and runs the 7th, 8th, 9th and 14th, 15th, 16th at Studio Roanoke on Campbell Avenue. (The troupe may stage its plays elsewhere next season.) The actors are Michael Mansfield, Amanda Mansfield and Brian Cabaniss, with dance elements by Elyse Daye Hart and Trey Mitchell – HartMitchell/Dance. Performances begin at 8 p.m. and tickets are $12 adults/$8 students. For more information call Gamut Theatre at 540-521-6049 or email the theatre at [email protected].