As I get older, I often ask for timeframe clarity on an incident. Was it last summer, ten years ago or did I dream it? Recently, a long-term chum was recanting a youthful escapade. Somewhere in the middle of his narration, I interrupted. I don’t know what bothered me more. That I’ve told the story often enough that he’s inserted himself into that memory? Or that I didn’t realize it was MY story until ten minutes in?
Strawdog Theatre presents OLD TIMES. Between 1968-1982, Playwright Harold Pinter penned a number of pieces sometimes termed ‘the memory plays.’ In OLD TIMES, Kate announces her best friend Anna is coming to visit. Deeley, her husband is startled. Why has he never heard of Anna? If Kate and Anna are BFFs, why haven’t they seen each other in twenty years? Upon arrival, Anna mixes it up even more. The stories contradict. The puzzle disconnects. Who’s zooming who? Seems like OLD TIMES is the movie “Single White Female” taking place in the play “No Exit.”
Pinter riddles an intellectual teaser. Each of the characters shifts alliances and circumstances during the reunion meet-up. Just as I connect two dots to get a picture, Pinter hits the scrambler button. Dots fly into a new semblance. A different depiction emerges from the shake-up. Using silence and timing to perfection, Director Kimberly Senior builds the intrigue and the questions. The talented threesome draws their own fuzzy lines between adoration and obsession, lust and hate, life and death. John Henry Roberts (Deeley) goes from baffled to flirty to accusatory to despondent. The synergy between Roberts and Michaela Petro (Anna) is supercharged with sexual aggression. A confident Petro controls the living room with expert game-playing. Petro deliciously baits Deeley revealing Kate’s past. Abigail Boucher (Kate) plays it perfectly vague. Throughout the intense banter between Roberts and Petro, Boucher is serenely expressionless. In Boucher’s powerful transformation, she awakens with disturbing memories of her own.
OLD TIMES was first produced in 1971. Scenic Designer Mike Mroch stays true to the time period with a stylish set. Mroch builds out a two walled Modernist set with a window overlooking a wooden fenced-in area. My interpretation is validated with this imagery because the set reinforces the trio being stuck. Costume Designer Aly Renee Amidei provides fashionable 70’s attire for the cast. The outfits help define the first impressions of the characters with Roberts- businesslike, Petro – sexy, and Boucher – sweet.
I remember thinking about halfway through OLD TIMES that I wanted to see it again. I’d like to see if knowing what I know now makes me connect the dots differently. Because the acting is sublime, a repeat visit is a no-brainer decision… that is as long as I don’t forget to do it.
Stepping out of his musical theatrical comfort zone, Dick describes it with ‘I am confused.’
Running Time: Eighty minutes with no intermission.
At Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway
Written by Harold Pinter
Directed by Kimberly Senior
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 4pm
Thru November 12th