Valley Players’ “The Lover” is entertaining, amusing and deep

The Daily Republic Review, Tony Wade, September 8, 2017

VALLEJO — I’m always excited when a new theater company springs forth on the local scene. I’ve had the good fortune to see a few, including On the Fringe, The Left Hand Theatre Co. and once fledgling, now veteran Bay Area Stage.

Valley Players is a brand spankin’ new company that has as its mission “empowering women over 40 through the theater arts.”

What impressed me the most about Valley Players’ production of “The Lover,” presented at Bay Area Stage’s Broadway Theatre in Vallejo, was how polished and well-presented the production was. They had a three-day run in Napa this year, but it came across more like they had performed it for at least three months. Kudos to director Debbie Baumann.

I often tell people who are amazed at the quality of Solano County theater that talented people do not just live in New York or San Francisco. They are in fact everywhere.

“The Lover” is a 1962 one-act play written by Harold Pinter, a Nobel Prize-winning English playwright whose career spanned half a century. It is basically about a married couple’s unusual relationship.

When you marry a contemplative, funny, risqué, challenging piece with a talented yet small cast of three actors and a director who helped them laser-focus their abilities, well, you come up with “The Lover.” It was one of those shows where you almost don’t want to blink, lest you miss something.

Richard Pallaziol and June Alane Reif in The Lover by Harold PinterJune Alane Reif as Sarah was intense, had a smoldering sensuality, was vulnerable, cruel, funny and did it all with an impeccable English accent.

Richard Pallaziol as Richard was at turns understated, sedate, aloof, vindictive, wild and surprising.

Robert Silva as John the Milkman had a small but necessary role and delivered it well in a workmanlike fashion.

The interaction of Reif and Pallaziol was mesmerizing. Ideally in all productions there comes that time when the audience becomes so engrossed, so sucked into the story that they feel as if they are actually somehow secretly peering through the “fourth wall.”

That moment came shortly after the lights went up in “The Lover.”

Then . . . there . . . were . . . the . . . wait for it . . . pauses.

In the Director’s Notes in the program, Baumann says about the numerous moments of silence between dialogue, “these give Pinter’s written words a chance to sink in – for both the actors and the audience.” They seemed completely natural, helped sculpt each character and created/sustained dramatic tension mirroring some of the sexual tension inherent in the play.

I enjoy seeing different theater companies’ disparate takes on shows I have seen performed numerous times, but what I enjoy even more is seeing a show like “The Lover” that I knew nothing about. I love going in as a blank slate and just letting the story unfold. What unfolded was a quirky/funny/deep/entertaining show that made you both feel and think.

It is difficult to talk all around the main plot of a show, but I firmly believe that reviews that reveal too much of the story completely ruin it for anyone that might attend the show who has not seen it.

The best way to experience art at this level is live in a theater and not in a review.

But (spoiler alert!) for those who must know something, I can offer the following: “The Lover” is about an English couple dealing with adultery.

Or is it?


Valley Players’ ‘The Lover’ is entertaining, amusing and deep