A Slight Ache is a play written by the late Nobel prize-winning British playwright Harold Pinter. It was originally penned in 1958 and premiered as a radio play in 1959, prior to its initial stage production. The play has since had many successful theater productions. Now audiences can experience the dramatic artistry of Mr. Pinter in a sterling production at Los Angeles’s Odyssey Theatre through October 1.
Meticulously directed by Jack Heller, this bizarre tragicomedy examines psychological projection, aging and loss, self-loathing, and suspicion of others, and it unfolds in just over an hour (72 minutes in real time). It’s a three-character play, but only two of them have dialogue: Flora (the radiantly sensual Susan Priver) and Edward (a staunchly pedantic but believable Henry Olek). The third character (a marvelously convincing Shelly Kurtz) is a match seller (yes, he sells matches, not lighters) who looks as if he’s been pulled out from under one of the homeless camps off the nearby 405 freeway.
As equally matched (no pun intended) as this trio of thespians are, it is Kurtz whose role is arguably the most challenging. In the words of John Wayne, acting is reacting, and Kurtz’s reactions are the embodiment of John Wayne’s acting philosophy. Without a word, Kurtz’s match seller’s face and attire speak a script’s worth of dialogue. This cast of three are as in tune with Harold Pinter’s short but profound play as Peter, Paul and Mary were with the music of their top-forty hit If I Had a Hammer.
What’s more, the production values on display in this production of A Slight Ache are sky high. Jeff G. Rack’s scenic design is enchanting; upon entering the theater space we in the audience are enchanted by the supposed home of Flora and Edward, with its lined bookcases, map of the African continent, and luxurious furnishings (Aubrielle Hvolvoll and Deanna Anderson are credited as prop master and creative collaborator, respectively).
Michael Mullen’s costuming is a perfect fit for this production set in the mid-20th century in a tiny village near London. The match seller’s costume is literally holey (riddled with holes) and layered with filth. To see him is to imagine his malodorous scent. As a contrast, Edward is attired in khaki with a subtle militarism to it, and Flora is clothed in a sheer, feminine sun dress that accentuates her ladylikeness.
A Slight Ache is purely Pinter in its conceit, both humane and troubling.
What: A Slight Ache
Where: The Odyssey Theatre, 2055 Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles, 90025
When: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sundays at 2 p.m. Through October 1, 2023
How: Call (310)477-2055 ext. 2 or visit OdysseyTheatre.com