Review: The Dumb Waiter (Wordsmyth Theatre)

Speak No Evil

Classic absurdist theatre comes to Toronto in The Dumb Waiter

The Dumb Waiter, currently being produced by Wordsmyth Theatre, is a classic piece of absurdist theatre involving two hit men waiting in a small room for their mark to arrive. Suddenly the dumb waiter begins sending orders down – a dumb waiter is a little elevator intended to carry food and other smallish sundry items from one floor to another without the need of human accompaniment. Obviously it is a bit of an archaic device, as is the “speaking tube”, also featured in the play, that allows the men to communicate with the forces that be.

Of the two assassins, Ben is the one who is in charge. He is the one who has spoken to the boss, supposedly knows the details of the assassination they are about to carry out, and who commandeers the speaking tube once it becomes known about in the second half of the play.

Gus is the other man, and he is embroiled with doubts about their choice of career due to their last victim being a woman. Gus’s anxiety grates on Ben so that he is already frustrated when the dumb waiter first descends with its cryptic demands. Then Ben begins to lose his cool in a more serious way.

Mark Wilson and David Matheson are wonderful to watch in the intimate space of Odyssey Studio. They pulled me completely into the reality of a dank basement in England, where a hot cup of tea is what’s desperately needed so that men can carry out their task of murdering whoever walks in door.

The space is so intimate you can watch a vein bulge in Wilsons’s shaved head as he chokes Matheson’s character for a brief, tense moment. It lends itself well to the fraught environment of Pinter’s script.

If I had any small quibble with the night it was that Ben’s aggression ramps up a bit too quickly after the slow burn of the first twenty minutes.

This is a play definitely set in a particular milieu in terms of geography, time period and class, but still has a lot to offer contemporary audiences.

Did I mention it’s also funny?


  • The Dumb Waiter, produced by Wordsmyth Theatre at Odyssey Studio, (636 Pape Avenue. Studio Entrance is on Cavell Avenue)  runs until June 2, 2013
  • Shows are at 8 pm on Thursdays and Saturdays and 9 pm on Fridays with 4 pm matinees on Saturdays and Sundays
  • Tickets are $15 to $25
  • Tickets are available online

Photo by Dahlia Katz