Old Times...And Getting Older

Here's WaPo's review of Harold Pinter's Old Times, now onstage at the Shakespeare Theater. It has all the good that can be said of the production: the appropriateness of the set and costumes, Michael Kahn's good directing, workmanlike performances.

But nothing really overcomes the fact that it's... a Harold Pinter play.

Here's a taste of the plot for you. A man and his wife receive a visit from the wife's old friend. The wife is a kind of cipher, and the man and the visitor's competing memories of the past become a duel to control the present as well:
Deeley begins to become angry at Anna’s intimacy with his wife, and both women become defensive. In an attempt to win back Kate’s loyalty, he tells her about his meeting Anna twenty years before. Faced with competing memories, Kate suddenly recalls seeing Anna dead on her bed, covered in dirt. She took a bath, and then brought a man in, only to find that Anna’s body had disappeared. She then smeared the man’s face with dirt, to which he responded with a marriage proposal. Upon hearing the story, Deeley cries.
I admire Kahn's determination to bring not only the classics but the modern classics to life, but I'm just not sold that Pinter is going to last in the oeuvre, and certainly not Old Times. The set was contemporary as you please, Kahn did all the good he could for the script, but from the opening moment the whole play was just SO 1970s. So dated. I can't imagine that script ever breaking free of a particular moment in time, and that not an especially memorable one. (Though I will do Pinter the justice of saying he at least knows how banal and meaningless his existence is ...clearly that's why he's so angry all the time.)

I tend to agree with the Post reviewer that it's pointless to try to "solve" the riddle of the play's meaning, but in theory it's an exploration of how memory creates reality and old lovers may have wildly different recollections of the same events. As to that, someone has said that more charmingly, and in considerably fewer than 90 minutes.

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