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Old Times 

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OLD TIMES, Pyewacket, at O Bar & Cafe. Harold Pinter's 1971 drama is a tough nut, no doubt about it. Portraying an encounter between three people--Kate, her husband Deeley, and their houseguest Anna, Kate's former roommate and possible ex-lover--Pinter's script seethes with muted tension, expressed through maddeningly polite cocktail-party chitchat as the trio trade conflicting reminiscences while Deeley and Anna vie for dominance in the triangular relationship. Court Theatre's production last year tended to overemphasize every innuendo, but at least its haunting design evoked the atmospheric setting--nighttime in a secluded farmhouse on the English seacoast--crucial to this fascinating study of memory and identity.

The Pyewacket ensemble's non-Equity production lacks visual texture as well as dramatic nuance. Performing in the basement of a Wrigleyville bar, the three cast members are burdened with an unattractive set, too bright lighting, and the clomping of shoes on the floor upstairs, shortcomings that undermine any hope director Kerstin Broockmann might have had of conveying the play's subtle mood shifts. Maureen Michael is bland rather than cryptic as Anna, and David Tatosian relies on a smarmy grin and hyperactive eyebrows to convey Deeley's anxiety at having his sexual superiority challenged. And despite the chirpy English accent Kate Harris brings to the role of the wife, the show lacks a necessary sense of time and place; what should be enigmatic comes off as merely monotonous.

--Albert Williams


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