Los Angeles Theater Preview: Harold Pinter’s THE ROOM (The Wooster Group at REDCAT)

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by Tony Frankel on January 28, 2016

in Theater-Los Angeles


The Wooster Group has let Stage and Cinema know that Samuel French, Inc., which manages the United States rights for Harold Pinter’s work, has banned critics from reviewing (or reviewers from criticizing) the world premiere of Wooster’s production of his The Room at REDCAT, opening next week on February 4, 2016 and running through February 14.

Ari Fliakos, Kate Valk, Scott Renderer in The Wooster Group's THE ROOM. Photo by Paula Court.

Originally, we were also not allowed, nay “forbidden,” to promote the show, so I couldn’t even tell you to go and see it. The Group appealed this decision, so French subsequently lifted the restriction on promoting the production, so now I can inform you about a show which, it turns out, may begin and end at REDCAT in Los Angeles: Wooster was also informed that they do not currently receive permission for future performances of the production being planned in New York City and Paris.

Ari Fliakos in The Wooster Group's THE ROOM. Photo by Paula Court.

According to a press release from REDCAT, Samuel French Licensing Manager David Kimple’s reason: “Outside circumstances.” Mr. Kimple wrote in an email to Wooster that “Mr. Pinter’s catalogue is, as you know, world famous; to keep this catalogue afloat, there are many moving pieces and the work of the estate is not limited to any one single person.” In other words, it is the estate making the decision and French is following orders.

I wonder if it has something to do with Wooster’s production. As I mentioned in my exhaustive and long-winded piece about Existentialism, many Theatre of the Absurd writers — Beckett, Albee — and their estates have been known to sue productions for not performing the script exactly as written, including stage directions and design. Prior to premiering The Room at REDCAT, The Wooster Group presented the piece in sold-out advance showings at The Performing Garage, the Group’s home theater in New York City. Did the estate get wind that Wooster is up to their usual theatrical reconstructionism? Or — as Pinter’s estate is contending — did Wooster not have the rights for the L.A. run, and the estate threw them a bone by allowing these 10 performances while restricting reviews?

Philip Moore and Kate Valk in The Wooster Group's THE ROOM. Photo by Paula Court.And while I suppose anyone in the media can buy tickets and write a review, it’s still a case of censorship. Or is it? I have received invites to see shows before with a request that it is not reviewed; is that censorship?

I agree with Mark Murphy, Executive Director of REDCAT, that the restrictions are “puzzling,” but I disagree that this censorship has “the potential for severe financial impact.” You can’t buy publicity like this. Not as if Wooster needs it anyway. Their previous outings at REDCAT (Vieux Carré, Early Plays, Cry Trojans! (Troilus and Cressida), Early Shaker Spirituals) — head-scratching, overrated and downright impenetrable as some of their work was — did just fine. Additionally, except for Elevator Repair Service’s Gatz, the Wooster Group’s shows are also the highest ticket price I have ever seen at REDCAT. (And when is the theater community going to get that critics are not here to sell tickets? And if we are such a commodity, then why are critics being fired all over the country?)

This news just broke, and so far The Los Angeles Times, the American Theatre Critics Association (in an email to members), and more have responded. We’ll see if this story has a lasting impact; when Stage and Cinema was banned from reviewing some theaters in Los Angeles in August, 2014, the outcry lasted about four days.

Obviously, bloggers will be reviewing the show with vigor (even in the Comments section below!), and sold-out houses are forthcoming, even if the play sucks. But out of courtesy to my relationship with REDCAT, unless we get permission from the theater, we will not be critiquing the show.

photos by Paula Court

The Room
The Wooster Group
REDCAT (The Roy and Edna Disney Cal Arts Theatre)
631 West 2nd St. under Walt Disney Concert Hall
plays February 4-14, 2016
for tickets, call 213.237.2800 or visit REDCAT

{ 1 comment }

Larry Bommer January 28, 2016 at 2:30 pm

There’s enough censorship in our world as it is.
It should NEVER apply to, let alone come from, the theater

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