By Harold Pinter
New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1981 (25th printing)
ISBN # 0-394-17232-9
80 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
July 2012

This was my first read of any Harold Pinter work, and alas, I don’t think I got much from it. I read most of it twice, some parts three or four times, but just couldn’t make very much sense of it.

The setting is a small rooming house on a beach area somewhere near the ocean. The home is owned and run by Petey and Meg, an elderly and not very bright couple in their 60s. They have one long-time boarder, Stanley, in his thirties who is near if not exactly at a birthday. Two other men come in asking for room, Goldberg, a man in his fifties and McCann, in his thirties. They appear to be on some sort of mission and Stanley is the object of their visit. Lastly there is Lulu, a local girl in her 20s.

Goldberg and McCann seem to be on a mission to Stanley, but it’s not fully clear why. They may want to “save” him from something, perhaps the meaninglessness of his life or perhaps from faults in his past. They are vague, yet seem to suggest some sort of clerical background in Stanley’s life, and some serious failures which harmed other people, but nothing is too clear.

Since it is at least very near Stanley’s birthday, they hold a party for him on the evening of their arrival which is reminiscent of both Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff and Waiting For Godot, not even unlike Albee’s short play, The Zoo Story. Goldberg and McCann seemingly break Stanley and in the end he leaves with them, for . . . well, it was never quite clear to me why they took him or why he went.

There is a constant air of unnaturalness, eeriness about the play, and some sense that Goldberg and McCann are like some dark punishing angels of some sort, but too much was just too vague for me.

Bob Corbett


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Bob Corbett