The Lane Community College Student Production Association performed the play “The Birthday Party” at the Little Blue Theatre on campus for two weeks in November. Harold Pinter wrote the play, which features elements including ambiguous character identities, confusion of place and time, and dark political symbolism. The LCC production was directed by Cullen Vance, a local musician with a wide berth of experience and education in theater arts.
“Cullen was a phenomenal director. He knew how to unlock people’s energy and had a clear vision of what he wanted, but at the same time was open to suggestions,” actor Matthew George said.
The drama takes place in a boarding house where characters’ mysterious intentions and identities lead to shifting relationships and menacing confrontations. It takes place in the fifties, so the production set and costumes had many era-appropriate details.
Stanley, played by Nathan Dunlap, is a former pianist boarding with an elderly couple, Meg and Petey Boles. The nagging Meg is played by Brianne Orloski and the sturdy Petey by Larry Brown. Meg’s young and flirty friend Lulu is played by Taelor Critchett.
The house is visited by fast-talking, charming Goldberg, played by Katie Dobrowski. Goldberg is partnered with the tense Mccann, played by George. Their menacing of Stanley is contrasted with the building excitement for a birthday party.
In an interview, George described drawing on childhood tantrums to get the intensity portrayed his character Mccann.
“I viewed the character of Stanley as an obstacle to getting what I wanted. When he did something contrary to what Mccann wanted it didn’t go over well. I never took Mccann home with me, though,” said George.
During the play, identities shift, times are contradicted, and intentions are confusing. The author, Pinter, was known for putting these elements in his plays and tying them to political allegories. Drinking, flirting and violent outbursts gradually build up the misadventures during the birthday party in act two.
This was George’s first experience acting. He’s working on an English degree and is looking forward to future projects.
For their work in “The Birthday Party,” George and Brown were nominated for an acting award from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. According to their website, the KCACTF is dedicated to improving the excellence of theater programs in over 700 schools across the country.
“I did find acting to be cathartic. It allowed me to be in a completely different world and state of being than everyday life,” George said. “I retired the character after the final performance. I grew a beard to portray Mccann, because I interpreted him with one. Once the final curtain call had concluded I went down to the dressing room and shaved off my beard to signal the end of the character.”