note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Carl Rossi
In Harold Pinter's OLD TIMES, a married couple – Deeley and Kate – are sitting in their converted farmhouse, somewhere outside of London, reluctantly awaiting a ghost from Kate's past: Anna, her only friend and roommate of twenty years ago. Drinks are served with salad days, but Deeley soon realizes that not only has Anna come to visit, she may also have come to (re)seduce Kate, and Anna's weapons are pure and brilliantly simple: Old Times; her memories of Kate; a Kate that Deeley had never known and still does not really know (Kate is a sphinx). Whoever claims the past, claims Kate. By the end of Act One, Deeley is definitely the Odd Man Out; an ironic reference to the film where he first met Kate and the same film to which Kate may or may not have taken Anna beforehand. By Act Two, Deeley enters the game by re-inventing Anna as a girl at a party, where he sat for a long time looking up her skirt – but is he now also pursuing the pursuer? In the end, the enigmatic Kate turns the tables on both Deeley and Anna, leading to an eerie tableau described earlier by Anna, which may or may not have happened (ah, Pinter!).
At least, that is how I see OLD TIMES. It is not what I saw in the Theatre Cooperative's production.
What I saw and heard were three good actors – two of them, quite good, really, in and of themselves – speaking Pinter's lines cleverly and with expert timing (all those famous Pauses and Silences are in place) but not quite sure of what is going on – and thus they play for realism, when fantasy is its substance (I sense not even Pinter knew what he was writing about and decided to just run with it). The result is a very talky evening, with all those evocative monologues becoming beads on a very loose string (no doubt, members of the audience may say at show's end, "Now, what was THAT all about?"). Still, each actor has music in his/her voice, and it was always a pleasure to listen to them (I say, Shakespeare, anyone?).
Sean McIntosh has designed a lovely, minimal set – and Donald Sheehan deftly moves his trio around it in a never-ending spiral of memory and desire, though I see Kate remaining still throughout, coming to life only in her sudden outbursts to show she is very much a player in the game. (The actress playing Kate also needs to work on her facial expressions, which at present are variations of "HUH?")
Mind you, I was not bored with this OLD TIMES.