The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us

A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
No Man's Land

Who is this man, do I know him? — Hirst

No Man's Land
Sherman Howard as Spooner (standing) threatens Hirst played by Edmond Genest (Photo: Gerry Goodstein)
The best thing about reviewing a play by Harold Pinter is not feeling any compunction to explain it. Being perplexed by a Pinter plot is as important an aspect of the experience as is being fascinated by its meticulously calculated elusiveness. That kind of response is, of course, what makes the tantalizingly vague No Man's Land so much fun, especially so in the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey production under the direction of its artistic director Bonnie J. Monte.

Somehow I managed to miss the original Broadway production in 1975 which starred Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud. I can only imagine the kind of chill-enhanced rapport must have been created by those two titans of the British stage. I did, however, catch the Broadway revival in 1994 with Christopher Plummer and Jason Robards, an event that is still, if vaguely, etched in my brain. So what a treat it is to see two such fine, but less illustrious actors as Edmund Genest and Sherman Howard immerse themselves so splendidly in this wonderfully dark comedy.

Genest, who has been laudably prominent in fifteen seasons at STNJ, plays Hirst, the alcoholic, slightly effete, well-to-do author. Sherman, who has been displaying his engagingly bearish presence in a wide range of the classics for the past six seasons, plays Spooner, the down-at-his heels poet. They have been matched perfectly by Monte, who is marking her first return to the Pinter canon since she directed The Homecoming in 1975. This production marks the first Pinter play to be staged at STNJ in fifteen years. As a fan, I think it's fair to say that it has been much too long. Pinter's elevation when awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, offered further proof of him as "a modern classic. "

Without a doubt, Monte has delivered a most commendable production of this most delectably and devilishly wordy and worthwhile play. My almost immediate response was that Monte is not nervous about keeping the tempo and the tone of Pinter's carefully orchestrated tensions in high relief. I can't recall a moment that I wasn't hanging on to every bit of nuance in the performance, particularly the way all the characters (there are four of them) move about almost stealthily in a reality that is wavers between the mystifying and the blunt.

While posturing can be deplorable, it is actually the backbone of both characters, each of whom wallow both scarily and humorously within their own conceits. How exciting to watch them as they appear to trade their deviously enigmatic behavior back and forth. The play shifts boldly and dramatically in the second half so that what we have previously supposed and presumed is now redefined and saying to us, so you thought you had us figured out.

The core of the play consists mainly of random chatter between two old codgers who may or may not be long-time friends, may or may not be lying to each other, and may or may not be arch enemies or old romantic rivals. Some of it is suggestively sinister, some of it playfully baiting, some of it downright hilarious, but all of it suspenseful.

Evidently the wealthy Hirst has met the shabbily attired Spooner at a pub in Hampstead Heath and invited him back to his home (nicely invoked by set designer Adam Miecielica) for more discourse, more drinking and possibly a little whathaveyou. A lot of whiskey, vodka and champagne goes down the hatch as both men dredge up a lot of memories. . . or rather cleverly veiled deceptions. Certainly they have more of an agenda than is left to their spoken words. All the while Hirst, whose erudition was once celebrated with regularity at his home, periodically falls and looses consciousness. Our enjoyment comes in trying to figure out which of the two will attain his goal and get the better of the other. That neither may succeed is almost beside the point.

Subject to seizures, Hirst is attended by Foster (Derek Wilson) and Briggs (Paul Mullins) two slickly thuggish male servants with their own mischief in mind. In view of the stunning and tantalizing suggestiveness that comes through in the performances of Wilson and Mullins, another personal dynamic is set in motion. This is one play in which the old cliché about Pinter's pauses have been given a rest. For the rest, you will be hooked by the luster of Pinter's language and by the four performers who deliver it in style.

Editor's Note: For more about Harold Pinter and links to his works reviewed at Curtainup, check out our Pinter Backgrounder.

No Man's Land 
By Harold Pinter 
Directed by Bonnie J. Monte

Cast: Edmund Genest (Hirst), Sherman Howard (Spooner), Derek Wilson (Foster) Paul Mullins (Briggs)  
Scenic Designer: Adam Miecielica 
Costume Designer: Hugh Hanson 
Lighting Designer: Steven Rosen 
Sound Designer: Karin Graybash 
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes no intermission 
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, 36 Madison Avenue at Lancaster Rd. in Madison (on the campus of Drew University)  
Performances: Tuesday, Wednesdays, Sundays at 7:30 PM; Thursday – Saturday at 8 PM; Saturday and Sundays at 2 PM.  
Previews began 08/11/10 
Opened 08/14/10 
Ends 08/29/10 
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 08/15/10
Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.

You can also contact us at Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of No Man's Land 
  • I disagree with the review of No Man's Land 
  • The review made me eager to see No Man's Land 
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

>Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email and state if you'd like your comments published in our letters section. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

You can also contact us at Curtainup at Facebook or Curtainup at Twitter
South Pacific  Revival
South Pacific

In the Heights
In the Heights

Playbill Broadway Yearbook


©Copyright 2010, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from