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Review: "Old Times"

(c) Curtain

June 4, 2011

By Susan Davidson

There are things I remember which may never have happened but as I recall them so they take place. - Anna

Truth can be elusive. Especially when three people recall what happened twenty years ago. The characters in Harold Pinter's "Old Times", now playing at the Shakespeare Theatre/Lansburgh, are Deeley (Steven Culp), a filmmaker who travels a great deal; Anna (Holly Twyford) who left London where she was a secretary for a charmed life of luxury in Sicily facilitated by marriage to a European tycoon; and Deeley's wife, Kate (Tracy Lynn Middendorf), the very beautiful, waif-like child/woman.

Except for the blue sky visible through the highly-place windows Walt Spangler's all-white modernist set is bold and beautiful. Its unadorned modernism - even the painting, the coffee pot and cups are white - gives director Michael Kahn a blank canvas, a void to fill with words, symbols and gestures such as Anna spreading her manicured fingers to punctuate a point or arranging her skirt just so after having crossed her legs. With her hair in a style favored by diva Maria Callas and the clipped diction of someone who is to the manor born or, more likely, wishes to be perceived as such, Holly Twyford gives a controlled performance.

As Deeley, the most complex of the three characters, Steven Culp gives a very strong performance. His character is never overdrawn and that makes the plays ending, a surprise to some, very emotional.

It is easy to see why Tracy Lynn Middendorf 's Kate is or was both Deeley's and Anna's object of affection. Dressed in a flesh-toned pink track suit or salmon-colored robed, she is childlike, vulnerable and yet self-assured.

The Shakespeare Theatre is, of course, best known of course for producing the classics such as Shakespeare and Moliere, which begs the question why "Old Times"? why Pinter? Director Michael Kahn has always had a fine ear for language and for psychological interpretation. "Old Times" offers plenty of latitude for both. If you and your seat mate come away from the theater with a different idea of what this play is about, well, that's Pinter's point, isn't it?

"Old Times" by Harold Pinter

Director, Michael Kahn
Set Designer, Walt Spangler
Costume Designer, Jane Greenwood
Lighting Designer, Scott Zielinski
Sound Designer, Martin Desjardins

Cast: Steven Culp (Deeley); Tracy Lynn Middendorf (Kate); Anna (Holly Twyford.)

Running Time: 90 minutes including one 15-minute intermission.

May 17 to July 3, 2011, Shakespeare Theatre Company/Lansburgh Theatre, 450 7th Street, NW, Washington, D.C.; 202-547-1122;

Review based on May 22, 2011 performance.

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