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"Old Times" By Harold Pinter

Directed by Michael Kahn; at Shakespeare Theatre Company to July 3

(c) Washington City Paper

May 26, 2011



By Trey Graham

I'm still arguing with my friends—and myself—about "Old Times". About who did what to whom 20 years ago, and who's making what up in the present day. About who's really in what room, and maybe about whether that one character ever really existed as a flesh-and-blood individual. Thing is, I think that means Michael Kahn and his cast have more or less nailed Harold Pinter's deliciously disorienting little puzzle of a play. I know it means I'd go back to see it again.

Pinter's late-career fascination with the presence of the past and the mutability of memory makes "Old Times" a thought-provoking companion piece to Follies, although space constraints mean I can't waffle on about it here the way I have about the other. For now, let me just say that I'd like to live in Walt Spangler's severe white volume of a living-room set, which makes its husband-and-wife inhabitants and their patently unwelcome visitor feel like they're sealed hermetically in, doomed to squabble politely for the play's 90-minute length, or until someone dies or goes mad. (Or haven't they already?)

Let me say, too, that as intriguing as the other two characters are—I don't mean to slight actors Steven Culp or Tracy Lynn Middleton with passing mention, because they're both quite good—it's Holly Twyford's Anna I'd like to have on my side in any battle of wits. She's arch, cutting, ruthless, and the designers have got her up to look like the love child of Maria Callas and Mrs. Danvers. Terrifying. And terrific fun.

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