These are some wonderful actors, and they put on a wonderful show. Enjoy.
Oh and if you read to the end, you will note that John Moore and I now share the same email address. :)
We're registered at Spencer's Gifts, and Argonaut Liquors.
Full text follows:
There are certain truths in the world, things that we have agreed to refer to as facts. For instance, say, that Earth is very old. Or that trouble follows tequila.
That said, another truth is that my facts may not always line up perfectly with yours. Some people believe that dinosaur fossils were planted by a trickster deity, or that ordering a fourth margarita is a good idea.
So how could we possibly agree on what took place between friends and lovers in the distant past?
Memory and the tricks it plays are but one aspect of Harold Pinter's masterpiece "Old Times," but it underlies everything. A married couple is joined at their converted farmhouse by the wife's old friend from her younger, wilder days, and the three of them proceed to orally spar, spinning ever-more implausible yarns over what occurred 20 years ago, and to whom.
Based on that wildly oversimplified description, the play sounds like a snooze- fest of monumental proportions.
But no: This is Pinter.
His dialogue is often described as "menacing." But when it comes to "Old Times," Pinter's use of language borders on violence. There are no fisticuffs or gunplay in the show, but these people — especially the husband, Deeley (Kevin Hart), and the interloper, Anna (Emily Paton Davies) — are attempting to verbally disembowel one another.
The battlefield is David Lafont's clean, beautiful set, resembling nothing so much as an austere psychoanalyst's office, circa 1973, where they slash and burn in oral warfare, the outcome of which can only be victory or death.
Kate (Carolyn Valentine), Deeley's wife, or his "casserole," as Anna refers to her, is the prize. She spends much of the first act in a daze or reverie, as the others battle over and around her.
But Kate is fighting too, in her own way. It is no accident that Pinter references a film called "Odd Man Out." The shifts in alliances among the three starkly yet subtly illustrate the ever-slippery power dynamics at play. Now Deeley is bragging about his job and his life with (read: control over) Kate; now Anna and Kate are giggling like schoolgirls while Deeley looks on, fuming.
The unspoken sexual component that may or may not underlie the various relationships among the trio is never far off. That Deeley feels threatened by the ladies' nostalgic memories of Anna stealing Kate's underwear and whispering stories of her exploits in the dark of their shared room is a given. That Anna doesn't bother to disguise her distaste during his crude reminiscences of the first time he and Kate slept together is no surprise either.
The cast and director Suzanne Favette have done a wonderful job of capturing the surface tension of the piece, the delightfully horrid discomfort of unwanted social niceties we have all endured. Although Favette has inexplicably made a change at the end of the piece which frankly alters the author's intent rather drastically, the overall effect of the show is haunting and genuine.
What is sometimes missing is subtlety: that which lies between what the characters say and what they are not saying, the source of the tension in any Pinter piece, is vital. Too often Hart's Deeley bludgeons with words when an epee might be more appropriate, thus undercutting himself when he finally does explode.
And when Kate's casserole finally bubbles over, the hugeness of Valentine's anger and frustration seems like a choice that is forced, rather than one of allowing Pinter's words to do their own work. It is Davies' Anna who anchors them, with her seemingly sweet smile and open, outwardly friendly enthusiasm — only rarely does she let the mask slip, and at just the right moments.
Still, this is a taut, wonderful hour and a half, and audiences will be left wondering what, after all, is true.
Kurt Brighton: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Old Times" *** (out of four stars)
Drama. Presented by Paragon Theatre at the Crossroads Theater, 2590 Washington St. Written by Harold Pinter. Directed by Suzanne Favette. Starring Carolyn Valentine, Kevin Hart, Emily Paton Davies. Through Aug. 15. 1 hour, 30 minutes. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. $19 (Thursdays two-for-one). 303-300-2210 or go to paragontheatre.com