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The VERY Dumb Waiter

The Dumb Waiter is a one-act play by Harold Pinter written in 1957. “Small but perfectly formed, The Dumb Waiter might be considered the best of Harold Pinter’s early plays, more consistent than The Birthday Party and sharper than The Caretaker. It combines the classic characteristics of early Pinter – a paucity of information and an atmosphere of menace, working-class small-talk in a claustrophobic setting – with an oblique but palpable political edge and, in so doing, can be seen as containing the germ of Pinter’s entire dramatic oeuvre”

— Wikipedia


ACT I

BEN and GUS, two-hit men, are waiting in a basement.

BEN

I am a senior hit man, reading a newspaper in this basement as I wait for our assignment. 

GUS

I am a junior hit man, tying my shoe in this basement as I wait for our assignment. Ben?

BEN

Yes, Gus?

GUS

I have many questions to ask you before our job begins. 

Silence.

GUS

I’m also trying to make tea. 

BEN

The expression you’re thinking of for making tea is “light the kettle.”

GUS

No, the expression is “put on the kettle.”

BEN

No, it’s not. I’m going to continue to read my paper. 

GUS

Will you read me some excerpts? 

BEN

Occasionally. 

Silence.

BEN

And now I’m growing more animated! 

GUS 

And my questions are becoming more pointed! 

BEN 

At times, your questions are nearly nonsensical! 

The dumbwaiter delivers a food order. 

BEN

The dumbwaiter (which is a small freight elevator or lift intended to carry food) has delivered another food order, as it has done on a few occasions since we’ve begun to wait in this basement. 

GUS

I find this mysterious and puzzling.

BEN 

I am also puzzled that these orders keep coming. This basement is clearly not outfitted as a restaurant kitchen. 

GUS

I brought some snack food along with me for the wait before the assignment. At some point, should we send them up the dumbwaiter? 

BEN

We should. I’ll do it now. 

BEN takes the snacks and sends them up the dumbwaiter. 

BEN (speaking into the speaking tube on the dumbwaiter)

There is no food! 

GUS

I’m going to leave the room to get a drink of water.

GUS leaves. The speaking tube on the dumbwaiter whistles.

BEN

That whistling sound means someone on the other end of the dumbwaiter wants to communicate with me. I’ll listen carefully to what they say. 

He goes to the dumbwaiter and listens carefully. 

BEN

It could be gathered from what they’re saying that our victim has arrived… and he’s on his way to this room. Gus! Gus! 

GUS doesn’t answer. 

BEN 

There’s no response from Gus because he’s still out of the room. And the door our target is entering from is flying open, so I’ll round on it with my gun pointed!! 

GUS

I am the one in the doorway, and I’m stripped of my jacket, waistcoat, tie, and gun. 

A long silence, and then the curtain falls. 

THE END

By ICKipedia

ICKipedia Theatre is a theatre comedy podcast which engages with classic plays and their contemporary adaptations. By reducing revered works to their truest forms — the Wikipedia plot summary — we poke fun at, and poke holes in, the western canon.

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