dumb waiter

Clint Johnson, left, and James Bartelle flip a coin every night to claim their roles in Harold Pinter's 'The Dumb Waiter.

Photo by Aubrey Edwards

In a new production of Harold Pinter’s “The Dumb Waiter,” director Jon Greene hopes to pull off a tricky balancing act of comedy and menace.

Those are the defining elements of Pinter’s 1960 classic about two hit men stuck killing time in an empty room, waiting for the next job. It’s the kind of story familiar to fans of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino or Irish dramatist Martin McDonagh (recently acclaimed for the film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), but “The Dumb Waiter” got there first.

“As far as I know, there was no ‘hit men in suits talking about nothing’ before this play,” mused Greene. “Tarantino might have taken it completely mainstream with ‘Pulp Fiction,’ but this predated ‘Pulp Fiction’ by almost 36 years.”

Pinter’s two killers — the hard-nosed Ben and bumbling Gus — will be played by Clint Johnson and James Bartelle, though not necessarily in that order. Each night the roles will be determined by an onstage coin flip, giving each actor an opportunity to dive into each role.

“There’s so much depth to Pinter,” Greene explained. “He’s putting these men in these positions where they are both insanely serious and stoic, and yet equally absurd and comic.”

“The Dumb Waiter” is presented by The Radical Buffon(s), a new theater collective helmed by Greene committed to socially provocative and physically evocative work.


'The Dumb Waiter'

WHEN: March 1-17

WHERE: The Fortress of Lushington, 2215 Burgundy St.

TICKETS: $15-$20

INFO: radicalbuffoons.com