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A Brief Word About Harold Pinter’s Latest

Times Theater Critic

A new Harold Pinter play is an event in London, even when it lasts only 20 minutes. “Mountain Language” is so short that the entire script is printed on two facing pages in the Oct. 7 issue of the Times Literary Supplement.

It’s about a family in an occupied country being brutalized by their military captors. One of the things they are robbed of is their native speech. “Your language is dead. . . . You may speak only the language of the capital,” they are told.

Later the soldiers announce that the order has been revoked. The announcement is greeted with silence.

In a letter to the newspaper, Pinter acknowledges a report that the play was inspired by a trip that he took to Turkey two years ago with Arthur Miller, but denies that he meant it as “a parable about the torture and fate of the Kurdish people there.”

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“Mountain Language” is being performed as a lunch hour and early evening show at the National Theatre of Great Britain, with a BBC-TV version coming up next month, also to be staged by Pinter.

Variety reports that producer David Merrick, having just about exhausted the Broadway market for “42nd Street” (it has been running seven years), plans to do what he did when “Hello, Dolly!” ran out of steam in ’67: Turn it into a black show.

Of course he will need a star or two. For “Dolly” he had Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway. For “42nd Street,” Ben Vereen has been mentioned.

No black star has had a major role in “42nd Street” up till now. Presumably that would have been untrue to the story’s milieu, Broadway in the 1930s.

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But the statute of limitations regarding realism apparently runs out after seven years--or when profits start to slip.

Does anybody else find this device a cynical use of minority actors?

IN QUOTES. John Houseman (1902-1988): “It is necessary, now and then, for the father figure to expose himself.”


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