No Man’s Land

Do Hirst and Spooner really know each other, or are they performing an elaborate charade? The ambiguity - and the comedy - intensify with the arrival of Briggs and Foster. All four inhabit a no-man's-land between time present and time remembered, between reality and imagination. No Man's Land is now playing through August 20th, 2023.

Your Chicago Guide’s tickets for two to the press viewing of No Man’s Land courtesy of Steppenwolf Theatre.

“Tonight… my friend… your find me in the last lap of a race… I had long forgotten to run.”

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Production photo by Michael Brosilow

In the drawing room of his stately Hampstead mansion, the wealthy, aging Hirst hosts his newfound acquaintance, the enigmatic Spooner, for an evening of endless beer, scotch and vodka. The night winds on, the drinks keep pouring and the ground keeps shifting—until two sinister younger men arrive and interrupt the bacchanal. Steppenwolf returns to Harold Pinter’s modern masterpiece: a generational power struggle, a tug of war between expert wordsmiths, a maze of murky meaning. Or perhaps it’s just two old English sots waxing nostalgic and waiting for the sun to rise. In No Man’s Land, you can never be certain, and nothing is as it seems.

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Production photo by Michael Brosilow

No Man’s Land features a stellar cast, including ensemble members Austin Pendleton (The Minutes – Broadway, My Cousin Vinny, Billions) and Jeff Perry (Alaska Daily, Scandal, August: Osage County). Also performing are Jon Hudson Odom (MS. BLAKK FOR PRESIDENT, Somebody Somewhere, Lovecraft Country) and Samuel Roukin (Turn: Washington’s Spies, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2). The play concludes Steppenwolf’s 47th season with this celebrated masterwork directed by Les Waters. No Man’s Land is playing through August 20th, 2023 in Steppenwolf’s Downstairs Theater.

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Production photo by Michael Brosilow

The beauty of Pinter’s play is that it is open to many interpretations. On the surface, it looks simple enough. Spooner, a minor versifier and pub potman, is invited back into the luxurious Hampstead pad of a famous writer, Hirst. But, while the wheedling Spooner seeks to ingratiate himself with his heavy-drinking host, he finds himself blocked by Hirst’s intimidating manservants, Briggs and Foster. Gradually the tone shifts as Spooner seeks to reignite Hirst’s creative imagination and stir his memories. The attempt fails as Hirst seems trapped forever in an unyielding no man’s land which serves as an anteroom to death.

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Production photo by Michael Brosilow

No Man’s Land is by turns mysterious, poetic, funny and alienating, but mostly it is just mysterious. Pinter’s plays do tend to be somewhat open to interpretation, but this one in particular strikes me as gratuitously enigmatic, impenetrable even.

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Production photo by Michael Brosilow

A man, Spooner, an odd-job man and poet, is just someone from the pub who may or may not have known the central character, Hirst, at university, may or may not have had lovers in common or may just be a total stranger. Possibly Hirst, a writer of fame and glory, in his extreme inebrity, just mistook him for someone he once knew, with Spooner playing up to that. What Spooner certainly does is attempt to shake up the placid and unthinking stagnation of Hirst’s luxurious life in leafy, expensive and unchanging Hampstead, where Hirst who no longer writes, but waits for death, forever drunk, forever indulged.

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Production photo by Michael Brosilow

Hirst’s two manservants, Foster and Briggs might be lovers or might be sleazy accomplices in keeping Hirst drunk and incapable whilst they do whatever it is they do without his knowledge. One is charming, one is a thug, does this have any bearing on anything or are they just (un)consciously the ‘light’ relief?

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Production photo by Michael Brosilow

Is this about memory, or truth, or the battle for power, or how money is a cushion against existential crises such as nowhere to live, no money for food, or another bottle of whisky? Or is it about how no matter what changes, nothing changes, we are all alone in a no-man’s land which ‘remains forever, icy and silent’? No Man’s Land leaves you with more questions than answers.

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Production photo by Michael Brosilow

No Man’s Land is now on stage at Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 North Halsted Avenue, in Chicago’s Clybourn Corridor neighborhood. Tickets are now on sale at and at the Box Office at (312) 335-1650.