New Plays: The Word as Weapon

Harold Pinter is the Pavlov of playwrights. He feeds questions and withholds answers, leaving playgoers in a state of salivary anxiety. Written by Pinter in 1958, but opening on Broadway last week, The Birthday Party is certain to evoke in audiences another tantalized swivet.

The play's deadfall guy, Stanley (James Patterson), a paranoid expianist, is a mildly sinister human cipher and the sole boarder of a dilapidated rooming house at an English seaside resort. His landlady, Meg (Ruth White) cuddles and cossets him; unfailingly, she treats Stanley and her whey-faced husband to...

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