BWW Review: OLD TIMES - Austin Shakespeare Presents Flawless Pinter
OLD TIMES is an enigmatic play by Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter that centers on a trio of characters and produced flawlessly by Austin Shakespeare at Austin's Long Center.
Known for his deep characters, picturesque prose and signature pauses, Pinter is one of the most important voices in modern theatre. In his 50 year career, he penned 29 plays and numerous screenplays to great critical acclaim. OLD TIMES begins at the country home of Deele (J. Ben Wolfe) and Kate (Nancy Eyermann) a married couple who are expecting a visit from Anna (Jill Blackwood) a former roommate of Kate's. The friends haven't seen each other for 20 years and Kate explains that Anna was her only friend, though Anna had many other friends. When Anna joins the couple the mood changes to a nearly frantic competition between Deeley and their visitor for Kate's attention. They engage in, what can only be described as a sing off in their effort to gain the upper hand. I will not attempt to explain the remainder of the play, that, is better left to the audience to experience and what an experience it is. An actor once asked Harold Pinter to explain the play's ending, to which the playwright famously responded, "I don't know. Just do it." The intent of the playwright is to leave conclusions up to the viewer's imagination, which can often leave those in attendance at a loss. Austin Shakespeare's production does not leave us unsatisfied in any way.
Director Ann Ciccolella creates a perfect world for this theatrical experience. With the use of a stark, no frills set, neutral tones and an ever changing lighting scheme, she puts the focus on the three actors who never leave the stage. The production is razor sharp and immaculate. Staged in the round, Ciccolella's blocking is natural and seamless. Wolf, Eyermann and Blackwood are utterly brilliant, always competing in their triangular game of oneupmanship. Blackwood is outstanding as the mysterious visitor, her poise is palpable, graceful and smooth. As the husband, Wolfe is urbane, but not above competing for his wife's affections. His velvety voice is well suited to Pinter's evocative prose. It is Nancy Eyermann that I personally found the most magnetic among this stellar cast. She gives Kate such depth of feeling that I found myself thinking of her motivations long after the play was over. Patrick Anthony's lighting design is simply beautiful, giving the audience both subtle and stark contrast within moments. The set, also designed by Anthony is glorious, white beams forming windowed roof gables are suspended above the stage merely hint at the country home inhabited by Deeley and Kate. The entire production makes for a stunning and compelling evening at the theatre.
I give my highest recommendation to OLD TIMES as a beautiful work of theatre art one does not often see. Austin Shakespeare works its magic once again with this taut production.
Running Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.
Tickets: $24 - $39 thelongcenter.org