A bright, daring beginning for Valley Players

Napa Valley Register Review, Sasha Paulsen, January 12, 2017

How much of love is fantasy, and how much does the success of a relationship depend on it?

This is the question at the basis of Harold Pinter’s consideration of marriage in “The Lover.”

And it was the bold choice for a debut production from the newly formed Napa Valley Players last week.

Pinter’s play, written in the 1960s, is sometimes described as a dark comedy, and sometimes as a edgy drama, and the skillful duo of June Alane Reif and Richard Pallaziol evoked both in their superbly ironic performances as a couple with a novel approach to keeping the flame alive in their marriage. Maybe.

The play opens in the flat of an average middle-class English couple. Richard, neat in his suit, arrives home after a day at the office. His nice wife, a perfect housewife of the time, in her dress and heels, greets him. Then, as they have their cocktails, he asks, “Did your lover visit you today?”

Yes, she replies with obvious satisfaction, and as the conversation goes on, she expands the theme: And did he visit his mistress?

Not really a mistress, he qualifies the word, more of a “garden-variety whore.”

They continue to question each other about their respective amorous adventures even as they climb into their bed. Does her lover ever ask about him, Richard asks. Is it uncomfortable to have to lower the shades in the apartment in the afternoon?

Do he and his mistress discuss her, Sarah wonders. What do they say?

And, oh, no, he’s not coming again tomorrow? Richard catches himself on the edge of complaining; does this mean he has to come home late again?

Just when you are on the verge of wondering if this isn’t a trifle strange, even for swinging England of the ‘60s, it gets better.

The following afternoon, a good-looking young milkman (Walter Hamlin) arrives but no, he clearly is not welcomed as The Lover.

The Lover, it turns out, is, well, Richard.

At this point, I’d vote for it being a comedy, however, dark, rendered all the more comic by the elegantly smooth performances of Reif and Pallaziol.

It was an altogether enticing debut of a new troupe made up of actors, many of whom were prominent in Dreamweavers Theatre. It’s good to see them back.