Theater Review: ‘A Slight Ache’

Ben Miles

“The Past is what you remember, imagine you remember, convince yourself you remember, or pretend to remember.” ~ Harold Pinter

“A Slight Ache” is a play written by the late Nobel prize-winning British playwright Harold Pinter. It was originally penned in 1958, and premiered as a radio play in 1959, prior to its initial stage production. The play has since had many successful theater productions. Now audiences can experience the dramatic artistry of Mr. Pinter in a sterling production at Los Angeles’s Odyssey Theatre through Oct. 1.

Meticulously directed by Jack Heller, this bizarre tragicomedy examines psychological projection, aging and loss, self-loathing and suspicion of others, and its unfolds in just over an hour (72 minutes in real time). It’s a three character play, but only two of them have dialogue, that’s Flora (the radiantly sensual Susan Priver) and Edward (a staunchly pedantic but believable Henry Olek). The third character (a marvelously convincing Shelly Kurtz) is a match seller (yes, he sales matches, not lighters) who looks as if he’s been pulled out from under one of the homeless camps off the nearby 405 freeway).

As equally matched (no pun intended) as this trio of thespians is, it is Mr. Kurtz’s whose role is arguably the most challenging. In the words of John Wayne, acting is reacting and Mr. Kurtz’s reactions are the embodiment of John Wayne’s acting philosophy. Without a word, Mr. Kurtz’s match seller’s face and attire speak a script’s worth of dialogue. This cast of three is as in tune with Harold Pinter’s short but profound play as Peter, Paul and Mary were with the music of their top-forty hit “If I Had a Hammer.”

What’s more, the production values on display in this production of “A Slight Ache” are sky high. Jeff G. Rack’s scenic design is enchanting; upon entering the theater space we in the audience are enchanted by the supposed home of Flora and Edward, with its lined bookcases, map of the African continent and luxurious furnishings (Aubrielle Hvolvoll and Deanna Anderson are credited as prop master and creative collaborator, respectively).

Michael Mullen’s costuming is a perfect fit for this production set in the mid-20th century in a tiny village near London. The match seller’s costume is literally holy (riddled with holes) and layered with filth. To see him is to imagine his malodorous scent. While Edward is attired in khaki with a subtle militarism to it and Flora is clothed in a shear, feminine sun dress that accentuates her ladylikeness.

“A Slight Ache” is  pure Pinter in its conceit, both humane and troubling

What: “A Slight Ache”

Where: The Odyssey Theatre, 2055 Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles, 90025

When: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sundays at 2 p.m. Through Oct. 1, 2023

How: Call (310) 477-2055 ext. 2 or visit


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