The art of fooling yourself, in Pinter and O’Neill

John Lahr in The New Yorker:

John“The world is full of fictional characters looking for their stories,” the photographer Diane Arbus wrote. Her words came back to me as I watched the drama of identity taking shape in a fascinating Harold Pinter double bill (well directed by Neil Pepe, at the Atlantic Theatre Company), which brings together his first play, “The Room” (1957), and “Celebration” (1999). The winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, Pinter, as a playwright, a screenwriter, a director, and a mentor, has had an enormous influence on the theatrical landscape of his time. He began his career as an actor, and, even at the outset, with comparatively crude command, he turned his actor’s understanding of subtext into a metaphysic. “The speech we hear is an indication of that which we don’t hear,” he said. “It is a necessary avoidance, a violent, sly, anguished or mocking smoke screen which keeps the other in its place.” He added, “One way of looking at speech is to say it is a constant stratagem to cover nakedness.”

Pinter claims to know only so much about his characters, who arrive as images from his unconscious; his ignorance of their history is matched by the characters’ own vagueness about themselves.

More here.  [Theater critic John Lahr who, incidentally, is the son of actor Bert Lahr, the lion in The Wizard of Oz, in photo.]