There's something a little “off” about SHN's touring production of The Caretaker, by Harold Pinter and starring Tony Award winner Jonathan Pryce. “Off” is usually a compliment for the Nobel Prize-winning playwright, who's known for dramatizing the menace and absurdity characteristic of post-World War II British society. Throughout his canon, which includes masterpieces such as The Homecoming and The Dumb Waiter, characters break basic rules of decorum without explaining themselves, and no one ever asks them to. Chaos is expected; terror is swallowed. Instead of conversing, characters either ramble in stream-of-conscious monologue or sit in stony silence — a Pinterian pause gone awry.
In some ways, The Caretaker is another variation on this theme. At rise, Davies (Pryce) and Aston (Alan Cox) are in Aston's flat, an indoor junkyard where the dirt caked onto the wallpaper seeps into the mold on the ceiling. The blankets are so dusty that shaking them out creates a volcanic eruption, and the drips from the leaky ceiling are so loud as to comment on the proceedings like a comedian's percussionist. (It's a testament to Colin Grenfell's glowing, painterly lighting design that this set looks attractive.) Aston is offering Davies — or Jenkins, his “assumed” name — a bed for a while, provided the two can find it underneath the towers of junk. Simple enough, except the two just met today, Davies is a crazy homeless man, and Aston might not own or live in the flat he's offering to share.