ACT Theatre's 'Old Times': excellent cast, probing themes
A review of Harold Pinter's "Old Times" at ACT Theatre through Aug. 25, 2012.
Seattle Times theater critic
'Old Times'Through Aug. 25, part of the Pinter Festival at ACT, 700 Union St., Seattle; $20-$50 (206-292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org).
THEATER REVIEW |
Harold Pinter once noted that in performances of his play "Old Times," the "lifting of a coffee cup at the wrong moment can damage the next five minutes. As for the sipping of coffee, that can ruin the act."
Not a lift or a sip of a cup of java is mistimed or misplaced in ACT Theatre's meticulously paced and composed production of "Old Times," which Victor Pappas has staged with distinction as part of ACT's Pinter Festival.
Moreover, the crosscurrents of love, lust, jealousy and loss among the three characters in Pinter's taut romantic triangle crackle when they need to, but do not overheat.
The emotional temperature is important, because like many a Pinter play, "Old Times" (which debuted in 1971) runs hot and cool, raw and poetic.
It takes place in the severely chic country home of Deeley, a successful filmmaker (Jeffrey Fracé), and his wife Kate (Cheyenne Casebier), before and during a visit from Kate's old friend, Anna (Anne Allgood).
The two women, we learn, were roommates in London when young but haven't seen each other in more than 20 years.
What was the true nature of their youthful relationship, which Anna fondly recalls as a whirl of parties and dinners with a bohemian crowd of writers and artists, cultural excursions on the cheap, shared intimacies in a tiny apartment? How did their friendship intersect with or affect the romance between Deeley and Kate? And help form who they've become?
A recurring Pinter exploration into the power and subjectivity of memory suffuses "Old Times." As one character says, "The past is what you remember, imagine you remember, convince yourself you remember or pretend you remember."
Anna's memories conflict with Deeley's. The two square off in a sidelong verbal battle over who has possessed the bemused, enigmatic Kate more completely — and whose version of their joint past, with all its erotic and psychological implications, is "true."
Is the alpha man who "owned" Kate, by wedding her, the dominant one? Or the sly woman whose close female bond with Kate perhaps transcended any erotic attachment with the opposite sex?
The script for "Old Times" is like a piece of cut and polished glass, a crystalline object to be handled with care. At times it curves into dreamlike reveries. Or amusing match-offs — as when Anna and Deeley try to top one another, singing snatches of worshipful love songs to Kate.
"The way you wear your hat/The way you sip your tea... ," goes one crooned Gershwin lyric.
It's coffee and brandy here, not tea. And the excellent cast pours and drinks, spars and insinuates, with pinpoint acuity. Fracé and Allgood balance their steely combativeness with flashes of yearning and vulnerability.
And the elegantly controlled Casebier is a perfect obelisk, a coveted object of desire — who, perhaps, is not really made of stone.
The excellent work of the actors is set off by Robert Dahlstrom's clean-lined set; Sarah Nash Gates' costuming; and Rick Paulsen's lighting scheme, which fills Pinter's prescription perfectly.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Information published Aug. 21, 2012 was corrected Aug. 21, 2012. In an earlier version, the names of the female characters were transposed in the paragraph containing, "as when Anna and Deeley try to top one another, singing snatches of worshipful love songs to Kate."