Magazine article Newsweek

Moonlight

Magazine article Newsweek

Moonlight

Article excerpt

The true terror of Harold Pinter's plays is their implication that human happiness is not possible. In Moonlight, his first full-length play since "Betrayal" in 1978 (at New York's Roundabout Theatre), the characters seem never to have had a moment of joy. Andy (Jason Robards), a former civil servant, is on his deathbed. He fulminates profanely at his sons who have not come to see him. He's equally unsparing of his wife, Bel (Blythe Danner), who sits at his bedside patiently doing her embroidery as he accuses her of lesbian adultery while boasting of his own affair with the same woman. Elsewhere the sons, Fred (Barry McEvoy) and Jake (Liev Schreiber), dissect their family in a cross-fire of Pinterian non sequiturs.

There's always been a perverse pleasure in entering Pinter's implacable universe, watching him strip away illusions as we listen to his disquieting dialogue. He brought a new sound to the stage, an upside-down poetry crafted with fierce precision out of innuendo, insinuation, invective. Pinter's notorious pauses create a negative music, a syncopated silence, like a heart skipping a beat under the pressure of its bad faith. "Moonlight" resonates strongly with this strangely seductive music.

The problem is, we've heard these songs before. Andy reflects: "I do not say I was loved. Love is an attribute no civil servant worth his salt would give house room to." In Pinter's 1976 "No Man's Land," a character says: "I have never been loved. From this I derive my strength." Speaking of their common mistress, Maria, Andy tells Bel: "She's the one we both should have married. …

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