by Eugene Paul
Since we all know from long experience of Pinter plays that, with
very few exceptions, we are gathered here to admire, not to enjoy, our role is
pre-defined. How to make the admiration roll out differently is the task at
hand for director Douglas Hodge and company and all have put their shoulders to
the wheel. Constance Hoffman has provided spot on readable costumes, lighting
designer Joseph Weideman has a field day, Thom Yorke’s throbbing music
supplies premonitory subtext. And a dab hand at the task is set designer
Christine Jones who simply bowls us over at the outset by plonking us at the
edge of the cosmos, the tracks of celestial bodies pulsating in concentric
circles in vast space, their melting colors fluctuating over the suddenly tiny
set below and the tiny people in it, two women on two couches, a man in an arm
chair, and sharing space with them a glacial block of ice as a doorway into
that huge, brooding sky.
The man, Deeley (Clive Owen) speaks. Maybe one word. The woman,
Anna (Eve Best) in clinging white, couch right, speaks. Probably replying. Must
be. After all, she doesn’t have to look at him to respond, does she. Kate
(Kelly Reilly) Deeley’s wife, couch left, claustrophobic red mane of hair,
listens at first. Or not. The conversation diddles along, doled out
strategically by Machiavellian author Pinter to reveal enough to raise
questions, not enough as answers. But we who are here are used to that. It’s
Pinter. We’re already at work doing what you do at a Pinter play: catch the
clues, then fill in what’s what, what’s not. Or not. Doesn’t matter if each
one in the audience has the same fill-ins. What matters is that we’re doing
Kelly Reilly, Eve Best and Clive Owen
We have enough now, to say that Anna and Kate knew each other,
even lived together. Perhaps. Or, surely. And Deeley is starting to wake up to
the vague possibility that he’s the fulcrum in a situation. Or not. He gives
it a shot. He uncrosses his legs aggressively. Both women recognize the
significance of his crotch shot but glide past the moment, neither reciprocating
with a counter attack. In fact, each of them crosses her legs, silkily,
provocatively, but the barriers are up. For now.
We have enjoyed that. Oh, not the words, they’re not the point.
We don’t know if we believe that Anna used to know Kate years ago, has traveled
all this way to be with Kate, leaving her rich husband behind in their home in
Africa. Or not. Aha. Kate has uncoupled her legs and staged a couple of
possessive moves toward Deeley staking out parameters. But Anna is flickering
her mind through memories real and unreal and is not acknowledging Kate’s
silent ownership declarations. Deeley likes the upping of sexual tensions all
around but makes no too obvious moves. He doesn’t have to. Let the cosmos do
it. Or not. And thus it goes.
Roundabout Theatre has placed great placards in the main lobby
for the reading pleasure of attendees charting their devotions to Pinter over
the years. The large audience, respectful, awed, attentive, pays tribute as
well. That Owens, Best and Reilly do very little to deserve this adulation is
somehow beside the point. The point is Pinter. Sir Harold must be smiling down
from whatever heaven he chose to be in. Or not.
Old Times. At the American Airlines Theatre, 227 West
42nd Street. Tickets: $67-$137. 212-719-1300. 65 min. Thru Nov.