Old Times | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Old Times 

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

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Popular Stories

  • Book It

    New and recent book releases from Chicago authors and publishers
  • A silence louder than words

    How allegations of sexual abuse exposed cracks in the foundation of Young Chicago Authors, Free Write Arts & Literacy, and the city’s spoken word community
  • Comedy is back, baby!

    A glimpse at how stand-ups coped during the pandemic and made their triumphant return to telling jokes again.
  • Weed Wolf, the tagger

    'No matter how lame or artsy-fartsy it is, I'll take anything over a poo-brown wall'