william hurt

Allen Nause and William Hurt in ART's "No Man's Land"/Photo: Owen Carey

Ever since Artists Repertory Theatre’s “No Man’s Land” opened last week, I’ve been hearing from people wondering what Harold Pinter was up to in that play, which might be funny and might just be the saddest thing ever. So, I decided to book some time with theater consultant and blogger provocateur Bob Hicks, because I figured he might have an idea or two, both about the play and the performance of William Hurt. Here’s what he had to say.

OAW Audio #2 Bob Hicks 2 by Oregon Arts Watch

William Hurt and Tim True spar a bit in "No Man's Land" at Artists Rep/Photo: Owen Carey

As the title suggests, Harold Pinter’s “No Man’s Land” is contested ground.

Critics and academics of various sorts have sorted through its characters and lines, seeking something “definitive,” but Pinter’s construction won’t sit still for an autopsy. The play is full of acute observation, acute longing and desire, lovely wordplay of the Beckett variety, fiction intentional and masquerading as the “truth,” wit dry and humor bawdy, cruelty and malaise, power and vulnerability, even philosophical investigation or possibly the parody of philosophical investigation, depending on your state of mind, perhaps. And depending on how it’s played — different productions emphasize some of those different parts. The same with critics.

Into this contested and ambiguous space, which perhaps we can all agree is at least melancholy if not profoundly sad, William Hurt has come to play the role of the poet Spooner in Artists Repertory Theatre’s production, which also stars Allen Nause, Tim True and Hurt’s son, Alex Hurt.

This is Hurt’s fourth run-out with ART (the previous time, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” was a co-production with the Sydney Theatre Company), and I think it’s his best. Maybe that’s because Spooner is so various in his parts and an active player can find enough quicksilver changes to keep himself occupied in amusing ways. Hurt is an active actor and I found his Spooner absorbing.

Maybe I also found him baffling. But Spooner shares that quality with Hurt.


William Hurt and Robyn Nevin in "Long Day's Journey Into Night"

The William Hurt-Allen Nause connection will resurface in October, for Artists Repertory Theatre’s version of Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land.  ART co-produced Long Day’s Journey Into Night with the Sydney Theatre Company last season with Hurt as James Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s classic, and he’s also appeared here in Michael Healey’s Drawer Boy  (2004) and an adaptation of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya (2007). Nause and Hurt worked together at Oregon Shakespeare Festival in the 1970s before Hurt’s Hollywood career blossomed after his appearance in Altered States in 1980.

In No Man’s Land, Nause and Hurt will be joined by Tim True and Hurt’s son, Alex, for a run at Pinter’s alternately bleak and comic play, written in 1974. John Dillon, who is directing Antony and Cleopatra at the Georgia Shakespeare Festival this summer, will direct.

Single tickets for this production, and all the shows of Artists Rep’s 2011/12 season, go on sale August 1.  Ticket prices for No Man’s Land will go up by $15 (preview performances by $10) beginning August 15.  Season subscriptions are available now. No Man’s Land begins previews on Oct. 4; opening night is Oct. 7. It runs through Nov. 6.