A word's worth

Some terrific acting blooms in Pinter's The Hothouse

The Hothouse builds a provocative first act that it resolves with unsatisfying, slightly clumsy haste. To ask for resolution at all in a Pinter play is a tall order; the last scene suggests he was operating from a tender sense of what a play should be, not what he should make it. The playwright's own discomfort with denouement is evidenced in the makeshift lid he slaps on these sinister shenanigans.

Still, my memory of three terrific performances outlasts the lingering sensation of a sore butt. As the aggressively forgetful Roote, James Kille provides a reliably daft presence around which the other actors may orbit. As the ambitious and especially callous Lush, Kevin Keating reassures us that his character has risen far on the strength of a cruel apathy; his niggling over the terms "rest" and "convalescence" with a patient's relative are delivered with a smashing blend of officiousness and glee.

For me, the flame that kept The Hothouse hauntingly claustrophobic was Kevin Grammer as the appropriately named Lamb. Sucked into an investigation about a pregnant inmate mostly because of his naive desire to ascend the bureaucratic ladder, Grammer as Lamb undergoes a twisted and twistedly funny interrogation, hooked up to a rather nasty-looking machine that punishes him for his honesty. Thanks to the tragically sincere, enthusiastic Grammer, the scene transforms the souped-up essence of Pinter's misanthropy into a perverse moral lesson: Avoid the truth. It hurts.

The Hothouse runs through August 23. Call 522-

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