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Tea Party and The Basement

Tea Party and The Basement
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: Harold Pinter
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 65
Pub. Date: 1969
ISBN-10: 0822211157
ISBN-13: 9780822211150

About the Plays:

Tea Party and The Basement contains two one-act plays by Harold Pinter. In Tea Party a businessman is thrown into a catatonic state at an office tea party by the ambiguous relationships of his family and his secretary. The Basement is about a man and his girl friend who move in to share an old chum's flat. Presented on a double bill, these plays were a long-run Off-Broadway success.

Tea Party is a fascinating and theatrically masterful play that offers Pinter at his best and most oddly menacing in its subtle portrayal of a man whose life is mysteriously coming apart at the seams. As The New Yorker describes: "Tea Party is about a middle-aged self-made business man named Sisson who engages a young secretary, marries a beautiful young second wife, and takes his new brother-in-law into his business – all in the same day. Mysteries abound. What is going on between the wife and her brother? Are they indeed brother and sister? Sisson has his doubts about that (and so do I). Why does Sisson feel that there must be something wrong with his eyes, although he knows that he can see clearly and his eye doctor has assured him that his vision is perfect? He forces his secretary to tie a chiffon scarf over his eyes, and then he is able to make a pass at her, in response to one of her many come-ons. Ordinary events assume a sinister tinge. Sisson's two sons, giving him the deadpan treatment that little boys have been inflicting on their elders from time immemorial, seem as eerie as characters out of a ghost story. Always the questions remain. Is there a conspiracy against Sisson, as he appears to suspect? Or is he in the fix he is in – on the brink of madness, and over it – because of sexual panic and social insecurity? At the tea party that ends the play, he sits in a catatonic state, his eyes tightly bandaged, and the guests – everybody we've met so far – alternately chatter and whisper, ignoring him." And leaving the answers, almost but never quite offered, to tantalize and intrigue. (Cast: 4 female, 5 male, 2 boys)

The Basement offers a uniquely Pinteresque combination of bizarre humour and silken violence as it details a series of startling reversals on the eternal triangle theme. The play, in the words of Edith Oliver, is "about a fussy, spinsterish bachelor whose carefully furnished basement flat is invaded late one night by his former roommate with a young girl in tow. Host is effusive in his welcome to former roommate, that is. Girl and former roommate strip naked and get into bed, as host, terribly rattled, continues to chatter. (The chatter is absolutely fine.) The intruders move in permanently, and soon the host's old pictures and bits of sculpture are replaced by a huge, bright, modern abstract. And there are other innovations. As the action progresses, the roles of lover and leftover switch back and forth, and the girl, like the old bum in The Caretaker, tries to set the men against each other and succeeds. There are scenes at a beach, in a cafe, and at a bogus deathbed, and there is a duel, which is fought on a dark stage with lighted broken bottles." In the end we are, it seems, back where we started. But not quite. We have seen, if only for a moment, the rather pathetic, trembling animals who lie beneath the veneer of the shaved, powdered exteriors, and we know that it is not relief that will come to them – just continuation. (Cast: 1 female, 2 male)

What people say:

"Pinter is undoubtedly the most influential and important craftsman in English theatre…." — The Times Literary Supplement

"The most fascinating, enigmatic, and accomplished dramatist in the English language." — Newsweek

About the Playwright:

Harold Pinter (1930-2008) was an English playwright, screenwriter, actor, theatre director, poet, and Nobel laureate. He wrote 29 plays including The Birthday Party, The Caretaker, The Homecoming, and Betrayal, 15 dramatic sketches, 21 screenplays, as well as books of poetry and fiction, and directed 27 theatre productions. He continued to act under his own name, on stage and screen. His genius was recognized within his lifetime as a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005 (the highest honour available to any writer in the world), the Companion of Honour for services to Literature, the Legion D'Honneur, the European Theatre Prize, the Laurence Olivier Award and the Moliere D'Honneur for lifetime achievement. In 1999 he was made a Companion of Literature by the Royal Society of Literature, in addition to 18 other honorary degrees.

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