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Description: In a small house at a coastal resort live a man, his mentally wayward wife and their boarder who has been with them for a year. He is a strange chap, unkempt and in flight from we know not what.

In a small house at a coastal resort live a man, his mentally wayward wife and their boarder who has been with them for a year. He is a strange chap, unkempt and in flight from we know not what. Enter an even stranger sleek Jewish man and his muscle bound Irish henchman. The mentally immature wife accommodates them with a room and then decides that it is time for the boarder to have a birthday. At the party she arranges, the new guests play cruel games with the boarder break his glasses, make a buffoon of him, and push him over the psychotic precipice. The next morning he is reduced to a gibbering idiot and meekly leaves with them.

Stanley arrives at the small boarding house thinking it will be just the place for the quietness that comes from seclusion. He soon discovers just how wrong he is when a mistimed birthday party is thrust upon him and he is showered with unwelcome attention. Everyone in the house seems to want a piece of Stanley, but their motives are unclear. This absurdist comedy tugs at emotional strings as we see Stanley prodded and pulled from his comfortable shell and pushed into the spotlight for the entertainment of his hosts and the audience. (Samuel French, Inc. Catalog)

" Fascinating capacity to be menacing, ominous and evocative of some dark and threatening doom. " N.Y. Post.

Stanley Webber lives in a run down bed and breakfast in a seaside town south of London. His hosts are Meg and Petey Boles, a couple in their sixties. Every day is the same. Then two men show up. They seem to have come for him. He appears to know they have come for him and he is filled with fear. He tries to convince them to leave with a combination of charm, reassurances, begging, and threats. He is given a birthday party amidst protestations that it is not his birthday. He becomes increasingly agitated, and during a game of Blind Man’s Bluff he tries to strangle Meg. All the lights go out, and when the two men shine a flashlight on him, we see he is attacking Lulu, a young woman attending the party. The next morning he appears, well-groomed and well-dressed but mute, and is taken away by the two men.

What does it all mean? Who are the men? Why do they want Stanley? What did he do? In an exchange of letters published in the London Daily Mail, November 28, 1967, we see Pinter’s attitude toward giving interpretations of his work. The first letter:

"I would be obliged if you would kindly explain to me the meaning of your play, The Birthday Party. These are the points which I do not understand: (1) Who are the two men? (2) Where did Stanley come from? (3) Were they all supposed to be normal? You will appreciate that without the answers to my questions I cannot fully understand your play."

"I would be obliged if you would kindly explain the meaning of your letter. These are the points which I do not understand: (1) Who are you? (2) Where do you come from? (3) Are you supposed to be normal? You will appreciate that without the answers to my questions, I cannot fully understand your letter."

Perhaps Pinter is being too flippant, but there does come a point when we stop thinking and want everything handed to us. We have been grooming our expectations on films and television, where everything is presented in a real world and there is a justifiable cause for all actions.

But. does it really matter that we know who the two men are, where Stanley is from, or even the psychological state of the people? What we are seeing is a theatrical presentation, terrifying, funny, confusing, sad but an event that only exists because we, the company, are presenting it to you, the audience, the only conditions that create theatre. We are left with a sense of genuine unease, as though indescribable evil really were stalking outside the door of even the most ordinary of homes, awaiting its chance to enter. So to paraphrase Goldberg, "Sit back, relax, take it easy. remember, don’t worry; only you know what it all means."

The Birthday Party opened on Broadway on my 12th birthday. This was 12 years before I met the director of the production, Alan Schneider. He became a mentor and a friend to me until his tragic death in 1984. It is to him that I dedicate this production. I’d like to think he is still with us, and is a guest at The Birthday Party.






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