A play about two killers for hire seems like fodder for an existential crisis, and that’s just what you’ll find in this weekend’s on-campus production of “The Dumb Waiter.”
Starting this Thursday, “The Dumb Waiter” is a story about two hit men waiting to learn about their next job. During the course of their wait, they uncover existential questions within themselves and about each other.
“The Dumb Waiter” is a studio show directed by Mike Meaney, a second-year graduate student studying theatre, and advised by Tommy Iafrate, an assistant professor of theatre.
The play was one of the first written by Nobel Prize-winning British playwright Harold Pinter. Pinter’s early plays are associated with a historical artistic movement known as absurdism, which is characterized by its lack of narrative structure and encouragement of audience interpretation.
One of the hit men, Ben, is played by Ryan Fazziola, a senior majoring in theatre. Fazziola said that since Pinter’s plays are bizarre and allow for interpretation, “the audience should come unexpected.”
Aaron Penzel, a sophomore double-majoring in business administration and theatre, who plays the other hit man, Gus, said that the range of interpretation built into the play not only impacts the audience, but the actors and their rehearsals as well.
“Throughout this entire process, every time we’ve read through it or run through it the actors have gotten different interpretations from the last time we did it,” Penzel said.
Fazziola said that he connects to his character as they are both introverted.
“Ben is private and keeps to himself in his own world,” Fazziola said.
This is in contrast to Penzel, who says that his connections to his character Gus are that “he loves food and he talks a lot.”
“The Dumb Waiter” challenges its audience to stay on its toes and expect the unexpected. According to Penzel, Pinter wants the audience to think about if “when they are talking, are they really listening?”
The cast and crew only began to rehearse about three weeks ago. Penzel said that this short amount of time forces a challenging but rewarding rehearsal pace.
“It really challenges me to dive into the script and the world of the play as soon as possible, because in the real world you are not going to have the luxury of months of rehearsing,” Penzel said. “It’s pretty exciting but nerve-wracking at the same time.”
Pinter includes British slang and terminology in his plays, which Meaney chose to either change or omit. This was a move meant to keep the audience connected.
“A lot of times when actors have accents, audiences are disconnected with what they’re saying when it’s not their typical dialect,” Penzel said. “Mike wanted every word of the show to be understood by everybody.”
Jenna Brady, a junior majoring in cinema, is the stage manager of “The Dumb Waiter.” Brady shared that she experienced a significant distinction between cinema and theatre.
“The theatre department has a very different sense of community,” Brady said. “There is a big difference between interacting with a camera versus interacting with human beings that are in front of you.”
“The Dumb Waiter” encourages its audience to trudge through their own thoughts and opinions and to think differently.
“The Dumb Waiter” opens Thursday at 8 p.m. in Studio A in the Fine Arts Building. Additional show times are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $2 at the door.