UPPER JAY — Scott Renderer directs and stars in “The Birthday Party,” which opens tonight at the Recovery Lounge.
Renderer has always wanted to do a play by Harold Pinter.
“I thought this year was a good time to do it,” he said. “I had people in mind I could cast. I figured I would just go for it.”
The cast is Renderer as Stanley, Susy Doolittle as Meg (boarding house owner), Terry Young as Petey (Meg’s husband), Bob Andrews as Goldberg, Brian LaVallee as McCann and Kate Donis as Lulu.
Pinter’s play is set at a seaside boarding house in England.
“There is a man, Stanley, who is hiding out from his past,” Renderer said. “Meg is his surrogate lover/mother figure. He has a complicated relationship with her, typical Freudian mother/whore syndrome at work. She informs him that two men have reserved a room. She doesn’t know their names or who they are. He becomes extremely paranoid. He’s already basically paranoid to begin with. These two men show up toward the end of the first act.”
The men are Goldberg, a Jew, and McCann, an Irish Catholic, who work for an unnamed organization.
While directing himself, Renderer treats himself like another actor.
“I talk to myself a lot in public in front of the cast. I ask myself the same questions as I would any actor playing Stanley, and I answer them. I try to keep my ears and eyes open as best I can,” he said. “It’s hard with a play this complicated. It’s British, so there’s the dialect to contend with as well.”
Renderer told his actors to strive for the feel of a British accent rather than focus on exact pronunciation.
“Everyone has a different challenge with it. Some, it comes naturally, some not,” he said. “The challenge is to get consistency. I think everybody is doing a real good job to it. There are so many different kinds of British dialects. We settled on the most common, standard British, more clipped like newscasters at the BBC. The characters in the play, with the exception of Goldberg, are more working class. Stanley is a mystery. You’re never quite sure who he is or where he is from. I have a little more flexibility. I’m in hiding.”
Renderer incorporated the lounge’s existing rear stairway into the set.
“It’s a two-story boarding house. It’s mainly the living room of the boarding house and kitchen that has a hatch. It’s a large set. It takes half of the lounge. It’s a real seedy environment. It’s not even a boarding house. She (Meg) just thinks it is. The atmosphere is pretty ripe,” he said.
Renderer just finished a seven-week seminar on Pinter’s early plays, “The Birthday Party,” “The Caretaker” and “The Homecoming.”
“I thought it would be fun to do a little bit of extra reading on Pinter. I offered it through the arts center here. I had 12 people in the class. It was really a lot of fun,” he said.
The seminar helped him to understand his current production and Pinter more.
“How he writes and what his main concerns are,” Renderer said. “He’s a very complicated writer. He leaves a lot of information up to the audience. He doesn’t tell you exactly who people are and where they come from. It’s a little more challenging. You have to think. It’s mysterious, and it’s weird. Sometimes, it feels like a hallucination or a dream. ‘The Birthday Party,’ he wrote when he was a young man. He was 27 years old. It feels that way in some aspects.”
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IF YOU GO
WHAT: “The Birthday Party.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. today, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and Aug. 2, 3, 4 and 5.
WHERE: The Recovery Lounge (Upper Jay Upholstery), Route 9N and Springfield Road.
CONTACT: For reservations, 946-8315.