Written by Jesse Dienstag. Back Stage West, June 7, 2001
Actor's Art Theatre's cozy apartment space is perfect for Harold Pinter's one-act. As in other works by Pinter, two combatants duke it out in a small, enclosed space. While the piece does call for more than one room, I rather liked the feeling of sitting inside the boxing ring. The proximity made me appreciate these two excellent actors, Chard Haywad and Jolene Adams, even more.
On the surface, The Lover is a glimpse into the 10-year marriage of a typical looking suburban English couple, Richard and Sarah. But when the first line is, "Is your lover coming today?' it's clear this marriage is atypical. What follows is an examination of the couple's unique attempt at sticking to their wedding vows. It's not easy being everything to your significant other. The power struggles, jealousy, and changing sexual needs take their toll. Richard and Sarah's little chess match of a relationship turns into a fierce battle, with each taking an emotional pounding.
Hayward and Adams are terrific in the lead roles. Funny, aloof, charming, and spare, the two work beautifully together. It's scrumptious watching them calmly discuss the whore Richard allegedly frequents while Sarah hands him his evening sweater. Both embrace the playwright's pauses and fill the silences with oceans of energy. Hayward is exquisite in the juicier part of Richard. He's one of those rare actors in complete command of his instrument. He keeps his emotions boiling just below the surface, parceling them out in small doses when necessary. It's a near flawless performance. Adams is very good as Sarah. As the more overtly desperate character, she exhibits a nice mix of confidence and vulnerability. And, in his brief appearance, Ty Kopp is fine in his nifty milkman's uniform.
Doubling as director, Adams does a nice job with this part steel-cage match/part erotic fantasy...It's a pleasure to take this one in.