Ever have one of those days at work where the demands from "upstairs" make less and less sense as they grow ever more insistent? Then you already have some affinity for The Dumb Waiter, staged by Dog & Pony Show Theatricals at the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre.
But this production of Harold Pinter's early one-act has a twist. (Cockney-slang pun warning.) Two of them, actually. The British blokes from 1960 are portrayed by two women. Except for the shoes, the characters don't seem particularly feminine, and the dynamic is still thuggish alpha male. It's probably best not to get too hung up on gender, since there's so much else in this darkly comic gem to ponder.
There's the title. Central to the plot, as it were, is one of those little hand-operated elevators for sending food from the kitchen to the dining area upstairs. Usually, it's spelled as one word: dumbwaiter. Ah, but we have two guys here who spend the entire play waiting. Dumb? They're very chatty about it, but maybe not very bright. And the events certainly leave them dumbfounded. But is only one of them dumb about the waiting?
Dog & Pony artistic director Lissa Brennan directs and portrays the junior partner, Gus, with Gayle Pazerski as the senior, Ben. Sort of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy types, those hardy comics who also inspired an earlier 20th-century classic about waiting. But according to Samuel Beckett, no girls are allowed to wait for Godot. Brennan (who is also an occasional CP contributor) demonstrates that such restrictions are quaint at best.
Even with its 50-plus year history, there are still people who haven't seen The Dumb Waiter (trust me, I brought one), so I'd rather not give up any plot details. It's more fun if the characters reveal themselves. But in the interest of clarity amid the dated Britishisms, I will report that what Ben and Gus argue about is an Eccles cake — a currant-filled pastry, not anything that an American would identify as cake.