Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Old Times"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Beverly Creasey

Seems like
"Old Times"

Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

I've been fascinated by Harold Pinter's "Old Times" ever since the haunting original production, in 1968. Over and over in his plays, Pinter examines the repercussions of coming home and revisiting things past.

The couple in "Old Times" is visited by the wife's former room-mate whom she hasn't seen in twenty years. Remembrances "real" and "imagined" evoke past and present loves and losses.

Kate is ethereal, distant, depressed. Her friend Anna calls her a dreamer. Anna is Kate's opposite: forceful, daring, cheeky .... and Kate's husband is the "odd man out" at this reunion.

Michelle Dowd positively glows in the role of the charismatic interloper. Her Anna is luminous, glamorous, totally riveting in director Kate Caffrey's taut production. There is no question in Cafferey's interpretation --- presented by Threshold Theatre and M. Dowd Productions --- that the women have the stronger bond.
Brigid O'Connor as the wife literally folds herself away from human contact, tucked into the corner of the couch. It's evident these two shared something extraordinary years ago. O'Connor radiates a sweet desperation beneath her reticence. You can practically feel the sparks between them.

In order for "Old Times" to work its magic, we must feel intense pity for the husband in the very last scene ... but Michael Keamy plays "petulant" from the get-go, and we never get the chance to see him as anything else. Even more disconcerting, Keamy seems to be playing to the balcony instead of making eye contact with the two women --- and there is no balcony in the tiny Beau Jest space at the Piano Factory.

Comparisons are odious I know, but my heart ached for Robert Shaw as the husband at the end of this play. And, while I'm reminiscing about that searing production thirty years ago: Mary Ure emerged from her bath with wet hair. Nobody gets wet in this production. Come to think of it, nobody really gets hurt, either. And you can't have Pinter without pain. If Caffrey and company slowed up the final tableau, it might make all the difference. It went by so quickly this time, it was anti-climactic. You've got two sensational performances from O'Connor and Dowd, and the stage is set for revelation.
This "Old Times" is almost there.

"Old Times" (till 12 September)
Beau Jest Moving Theatre, 791 Tremont Street, BOSTON

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