Old Times | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Old Times 

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OLD TIMES, Court Theatre. Harold Pinter's 1971 drama explores the elusiveness of memory through the interaction of three people: Kate and Deeley, whose marriage has reached the point where neither one much looks at the other anymore, and Anna, Kate's onetime best friend and possibly lover, who joins the couple in their retreat on the English seacoast, stimulating anecdotes about the trio's uncertain past. Anna's visit raises myriad psychological possibilities beyond sexual jealousy. How much of what Kate and Anna remember of their youthful relationship is true? Does Anna even exist?

But director Kim Rubinstein and her cast go for an obvious, single-level interpretation: Deeley is threatened by Anna and verbally spars with her as the two seek dominance over Kate. Pinter's polite-sounding dinner-party chitchat seethes with subtext, but John Reeger and Carmen Roman as Deeley and Anna emphasize every innuendo, going for sarcasm rather than subtlety, making sure the audience "gets it." This pays off in short-term laughs--Reeger and Roman's verbal sparring recalls John Cleese and Prunella Scales in the old Fawlty Towers TV series--but undermines the climax, when the strangely passive Kate (Linda Kimbrough) reveals the deep alienation she feels. What should be unsettling feels merely inconclusive after all the broad comic bantering. If only the performances matched the cryptic, lonely look of Nephelie Andonyadis's set and Joseph Appelt's haunting, painterly lighting.

--Albert Williams

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