Friday, October 30, 2015

Old Times: Strange & Wondrous

I'll confess right off the bat: I have no idea what happened in Old Times. What I do know is that the Roundabout Theatre Company's current production on Broadway, directed by Douglas Hodge and starring Clive Owen, Eve Best, and Kelly Reilly, is a magical piece of theater. I was spellbound, caught up in the dialogue, watching the actors whirl through the play at a brisk 65-minute runtime, and at the end of it, I wanted to watch them do it all over again.

Owen plays Deeley, a man who is married to Kate (Reilly). Twenty years ago they were students in London, but now they live in the country, which is much quieter and eerier. The entire play takes place on one night when Kate's old friend, Anne (Best), comes to visit. What follows is a tangle of stories and memories, some singing, some sobbing, and possibly something much more sinister? Maybe? I don't know. There was a post-play discussion with Clive Owen where he stated the play should be treated like a poem rather than something with a linear narrative, and even the playwright, Harold Pinter, never gave anyone an explanation as to what this play was all about. Basically it's open to interpretation, and I welcome all your thoughts because I certainly could use all the help I can get.

Set designer Christine Jones has created a remarkable set that conveys a sense of  otherworldliness throughout the play. You constantly feel like you are spinning through time and space, a sense that is heightened by the background music by Radiohead's Thom Yorke, a musician who is adept at creating unsettling mood pieces. There were moments when I suddenly realized the set must have rotated since some of the furniture had moved, but I had not noticed because I was so much more taken with the actors as they whirled across the stage saying outrageous and wonderful things. It's fair to say that these actors must be delivering riveting performances if you don't even notice that the stage they are standing on has moved.

Old Times is a short, dazzling play, set in one gorgeous set, with three brilliant actors delivering astonishing performances. At the end of it, you might be confused, but you certainly won't be dissatisfied; if anything, you'll want to watch it several more times to see if you hit upon a revelation. No matter what your final explanation is of the play's events, watching it is a sublime theatrical experience.

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