The Salon as Slaughterhouse

Harold Pinter's No Man's Land showcases the cut and thrust of Jason Robards and Christopher Plummer as malign old poets

WHEN JANE ALEXANDER WAS starring in Harold Pinter's Old Times off-Broadway a decade ago, an unlikely Pinter fan -- Jackie Gleason -- went backstage to ask what the play meant. "I don't know," Alexander replied. "I'm not sure even Mr. Pinter does." Gleason nodded to express his own bafflement, then added, "Hell of an evening though."

That mix of confusion and spellbinding tension is Pinter's trademark: it is never quite clear what is happening, but whatever it is, it is urgently important. The menacing mysticism reaches a peak in No Man's Land, a series of drawing-room encounters soured by a barroom...

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