In the second of the season’s three student productions, Elmhurst College senior Timothy Geistlinger will direct Harold Pinter’s Cold War comic drama The Birthday Party.
One of Pinter’s best known and most frequently performed plays, The Birthday Party is set at a coastal boarding house populated by characters who lie as fluidly as they breathe, and whose fates collide during a birthday celebration, following the arrival of two very sinister guests.
When the play debuted in London in 1958, its meticulously constructed atmosphere of dread and ambiguity left theatergoers and critics profoundly confused and even angry. For a brief time, it looked as if the reaction to Party could end Pinter’s burgeoning career. Half a century later, the play is considered one of the Nobel Prize-winning playwright’s best works.
Originally written for the English stage, the script has been re-imagined for an American audience, and plays on a distinctly American strain of anxiety.
This production will focus on the suspicion and fear of the Cold War era. “It’s steeped in a kind of 1950s Americana, the Leave it to Beaver façade with the underbelly of secrets,” says Janice Pohl, the College’s director of theatre.
Student directors are chosen based on their choice of plays and their proposals to a faculty panel. The final selection is based on a number of factors, Pohl says: “We look at diversity within the production season, the technical demands presented by the plays, and the opportunities each play creates for students” in other disciplines, including technical and stage design, choreography and costume design.