The tenuous relationship between two brothers, one mentally challenged, and the vagrant who enters their lives is the setting for Harold Pinter’s “The Caretaker,” which opens next week at the Curran Theatre with award-winning Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce.
It’s been a long time since Pryce has visited San Francisco.
“I was there very briefly in the mid-’70s,” he says. “I finished the play ‘Comedians’ in New York and went out to L.A. with it. My wife and I drove all the way through Big Sur to San Francisco and back.”
That 1976 play by Trevor Griffiths garnered Pryce the first of his two Tony Awards to date. The other was for the musical “Miss Saigon” in 1991.
“When this tour was being set up, the first firm date we had was Brooklyn,” he recalls. “To work our way back through Australia, I was asked which American city I’d like to stop in for four weeks, and I chose San Francisco. I was looking for an intelligent, educated theater audience.”
Educated enough to appreciate the notoriously complex dialogue of Pinter?
“Let me stop you right there,” he says affably. “That’s a huge misconception about Pinter, and it’s especially a misconception about ‘The Caretaker.’”
According to Pryce, audiences in Adelaide, Australia have embraced the show.
“I don’t think they are a great theatergoing audience, and not many of them have seen Pinter at all. They are finding that it is accessible. It’s very dark, but it is leavened by the humor in the show, which leads you into the darker parts of the play.”
A truly versatile actor, Pryce has excelled in all performing arenas. Lauded onstage for comedy, drama and musicals, he’s been a James Bond villain (“Tomorrow Never Dies”) and appeared in iconic roles in “Brazil,” “Evita” and commercial successes such as the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise.
Pryce has been hopping from stage to screens large and small with great regularity for 40 years. It makes for some interesting juxtapositions — such as in 1986, when he starred with Whoopi Goldberg in “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and then took the lead in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of “Macbeth.”
“I do choose more carefully what I do in the theater than what I do on film,” he says. “In theater, I know I’ll be doing a part eight times a week, possibly for months on end. ‘The Caretaker’ is one of the best plays in the English language and it’s a great character to perform.”
IF YOU GO
The Caretaker Presented by SHN
Where: Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., S.F.
When: Opens Wednesday; 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes April 22
Tickets: $31 to $100
Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com