Harold Pinter must be smiling down on 42nd Street where the Roundabout is currently presenting his Old Times at the American Airlines Theatre. For starters, that street would hardly seem an appropriate address for his highly sophisticated trio of players who are right out of Mayfair, but I think he’d get a kick out of their doing their best to give it some class. He would also be smiling because his play is handsomely mounted, beautifully cast, and staged with care and affection by the gifted Douglas Hodge who is as much in command as director as he was when he performed Albin in La Cage Aux Folles on Broadway in the 2010 revival. Old Times is also blessed with its trio of actors, the sort that Noel Coward, Alfred Lunt, and Lynn Fontanne were reported to be way back when in Coward’s Design for Living. The two plays are comparable in that both deal with a trio; the Coward piece has two men and a woman sharing one relationship, the Pinter has two women playing erotic games with the husband of one of them.
Clive Owen is making his Broadway debut as Deeley, the husband. Kelly Reilly and Eve Best, both new to me, are his wife Kate, and her only friend from the past. Anna, the friend, has been invited to dinner and her arrival startles Deeley for she is beautiful, elegant, self aware, and might just be a woman he knew years ago. She gives him insight into his wife by spilling the beans about some of their exploits 20 years ago in London.
It’s pure joy to watch Clive Owen react to this new information, to see the ladies sparring with each other as they battle for control. Todd Haimes, Artistic Director of the Roundabout, warns us in program notes that, “the play defies easy analysis or categorization,” but goes on to add that “the evocative nature of its language and the sensual force of its relationships are magnetic.” I agree with both comments. It conjured for me more ballet than drama, for Mr. Hodges has created images that are vividly lit, and fluidly staged. His actors float when they move, and they often land in positions that tell us more than dialogue ever could.
I will admit that when Pinter is at his most cryptic, he eludes me and my thoughts go to “Answer my questions,” but I won’t ask them because I’ve read that his answer is always the same: “It’s in the play.” Old Times is in one act and plays for just 65 minutes, and I was engrossed and absorbed, if at times somewhat confused, bu I was aware that these actors and this director had created something unique and worthy. It certainly deserves and gets post-performance discussion and if you are intrigued by a play without a plot that is more a mood piece than a well-told story, a pas de trois for three perfectly cast actors, then get thee to the American Airlines Theatre, for you’re not likely ever to see this play more beautifully done than here and now.
Running Time: 65 minutes, with no intermission.
Old Times is playing at Roundabout Theatre performing at American Airlines Theatre – 227 West 42nd Street, in New York City. For tickets, purchase them at the box office, call (212) 719.1300, or purchase them online.