- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2009

Deathbed scenes are usually so reassuring. The soon-to-be-deceased rests serenely beneath pristine white sheets, surrounded by loved ones and caring medical staff and passing into the next life with one beautifully articulated final breath.

None of that fluff and nonsense for British dramatist Harold Pinter. Andy (Ted van Griethuysen), the hero of his 1993 play “Moonlight,” is going crankily into that good night. Thrashing about as if the linens are barbed wire, Andy rails as his placid wife, Bel (Sybil Lines), waggishly inventories his past transgressions and lusts and bellows for his estranged sons and seemingly dead daughter to be present at his bedside.

The playwright’s wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, once noted that Mr. Pinter wrote “Moonlight” as a livid meditation on the death of his mother. With Mr. Pinter’s own death on Christmas Eve last year, this melancholy and mournfully funny work takes on a deeper ache.

Andy, a lifelong civil servant, apparently has not had such a well-organized home life. He needles his wife more out of habit than rancor, but he breaks through her composed demeanor when he talks about their shared lover, Maria (Catherine Flye). “You may be dying, but you don’t have to be ridiculous about it,” she drawls.

Andy is estranged from his sons, Jake (Anatol Yusef) and Fred (Tom Story), whom he describes as a “sponging, parasitical pair of ponces.” Jake and Fred operate like a working-class English version of Vladimir and Estragon from “Waiting for Godot” - sitting day and night in a squalid apartment trading music-hall-style barbs and lyrical jabberwocky.

Andy has idealized his daughter, Bridget (Libby Woodbridge), as have his sons, and she exists in an upper story in their minds - watching over her parents and urging them to sleep, playing the peacemaker to her brothers. All of this unfolds in scenes that have a certain distant, decorous quality - there are no confrontations or expressions of impotent anger. That time is done, all in the past. Plenty of sourness is present here, but the production lacks the epic sweep of sorrow and regret. Similarly, the actors seem to be playing enigmatic, and there is hollowness to their actions.

A rehash of memories and delusions with no sense of life, either past or present, “Moonlight” as staged at Studio by Joy Zinoman becomes a gloomy tribute to death and disconnection.

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WHAT: “Moonlight,” by Harold Pinter

WHERE: Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW

WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Through Oct. 18.

TICKETS: $42 to $63

PHONE: 202/332-3300

WEB SITE: www.studiotheatre.org MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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