The Road Not Taken

One for the Road is unusually accessible Pinter. Given this anemic production, it is also dishearteningly irrelevant.

Stage Whispers
When it bowed in London in 1984, Harold Pinter's One for the Road was presented alone; ditto his 1996 one-act Ashes to Ashes. In September, Area Stage announced that audiences could see both One for the Road and Ashes to Ashes in the same evening. Then on the night of the first preview, local theater critics were sent a fax announcing that One for the Road would open alone, followed by solo performances of Ashes to Ashes a week later, after which time the two plays would be presented independently on alternating nights.

The change meant that Area Stage would likely receive two separate reviews in local newspapers, and that audiences would get half the theater for their money. At the time, Area producer and One for the Road director Maria Banda-Rodaz said the company was planning ticket discounts for anyone attending both plays, and that neither press coverage nor dollars entered into Area's decision to split the double bill. "The actors' emotional investment in the first show is tremendous," she explained, "and it's really hard for them to go from one play to the next."

Seven days later, when Ashes to Ashes was scheduled to begin, Area producer and actor John Rodaz called local critics, including myself, to say that the second play had been shelved indefinitely. "Unfortunately we have to postpone Ashes to Ashes to a future date because of a lack of funds," he noted. "Since they're two separate plays, we need two separate [Actors' Equity Association union] contracts. Therefore the actors get paid twice."

In a follow-up call, Rodaz pointed out that under the terms of Area's "Guest Artist" contract, Actors' Equity demanded that its two members in Ashes to Ashes (Rodaz himself and his One for the Road costar Beth Boone) be paid the $175 a week for each of the plays. That salary plus the theater's required weekly contribution of eight percent of each actor's salary to the union's pension and welfare fund amounted to more than $3000, a nearly 40 percent increase to the productions' original $8000 budget.

Speaking by phone from New York City, Actors' Equity's eastern regional director Carol Waaser offers another spin on the cancellation of Ashes to Ashes. "Doesn't Equity make a nice scapegoat?" she asks rhetorically. "Generally, a double bill that is both one-acts playing the same evening and set up as the equivalent of one single play would be considered one contract. We had a theater that actually did rotating repertory [on one contract], and we didn't love it a lot but we did it."

Specifically addressing Area's situation, she adds, "We received an application for one production [One for the Road] for four performances a week, and, as I hear it, [the contract application] was late. We need to have the correct information up-front to know how to handle a theater. We work with the producers when we have the facts. I feel we could have worked something out."

Contracts aside, both Rodaz and Boone admit that Ashes to Ashes was never even rehearsed (although the set was built and the sound recorded). "There is no malicious intent here," Rodaz insists. "We never sought any publicity for Ashes to Ashes. Ninety-nine percent of the [public's] response has been for One for the Road. Maybe one in twenty asks about the other play. We would probably have shaved off Ashes to Ashes to one show a week. If I could do it all over again," he reflects, "if we had announced just one play, all this supposed controversy that's been brewed up wouldn't have occurred. The audience doesn't care."

One for the Road.
Written by Harold Pinter; directed by Maria Banda-Rodaz; with Tomas Milian, John Rodaz, Beth Boone, and Manny de la Fuente. Through November 2. For more information call 673-8002 or see "Calendar Listings.

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