Review Roundup: OLD TIMES Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

By: Oct. 06, 2015
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Roundabout Theatre Company presents Harold Pinter's Old Times, directed by Douglas Hodge, starring Clive Owen, Eve Best and Kelly Reilly, and featuring original music by Radiohead's Thom Yorke, as part of Roundabout's 50th anniversary season.

OLD TIMES opens officially tonight, October 6, 2015 and runs through Sunday, November 29, 2015, on Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre (227 West 42nd Street).

In Old Times, the unsettling drama of desire and blurred realities by Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter, Clive Owen is Deeley, a man quite looking forward to meeting Anna (Eve Best), his wife Kate's (Kelly Reilly) friend from long ago. But as the night goes on, Anna's visit quickly shifts from an ordinary sharing of memories to a quiet battle for power.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: As Pinter himself once said to an actor when asked about the play's meaning, "I don't know. Just play it." That model of icy intelligence and elegance, Eve Best, certainly plays it, and is the dominant force in Roundabout's suitably indecipherable revival of his 1971 triangle tease. She is very ably joined by Clive Owen and Kelly Reilly, both making their Broadway debuts...Owen's Deeley is the kind of confident alpha-male whose cockiness is smirk-worthy to Best's coolly manipulative Anna. Reilly's Kate is the lamb in the equation but the sexual tension is thick and the possibilities ever shifting. Hodge overdoes it a bit with bright flashes of light and the ominous tones of Thom Yorke's scoring. This is a play best left to the actors, and the trio quite capably provides wonderful flashes and tones on their own.

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Once you can see past the, uh, smoke screen, there's evidence of real emotional embers smoldering among this talented ensemble, who are just waiting for the moment to turn into human flamethrowers...Fortunately, Ms. Best, Ms. Reilly and Mr. Owen...are skilled and charismatic enough to fulfill these requirements without entirely overwhelming the play's more subtle essence...In Mr. Hodge's interpretation, everyone exists in a five-alarm state of tension from the get-go, with equally heightened poses and inflections. Ms. Reilly finds a little-girl petulance in Kate's seeming passivity, while Ms. Best's Anna is worldly to the point of vampishness. Mr. Owen underscores Deeley's beleaguered air of machismo with a self-parodying, lounge lizard swagger. This approach, verging on caricature, makes "Old Times" more obviously funny than it usually is, and the desperation within the triangle reads larger...Less felicitously, this more-is-more sensibility can also make the script seem self-parodyingly pretentious.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: That Thom Yorke is the first from the creative team to greet you at the new revival of "Old Time" is the first indication you're in for an unsettling show...There's lots of lounging around, staring at each other and trying to repress the bubbling longings beneath the polite chitchat. This is a play where crossing or uncrossing one's legs is fraught with meaning...Clive Owen makes his Broadway debut with jaunty menace in this Roundabout Theatre Company production opposite the British actresses Eve Best and Kelly Reilly, both lovely and enigmatic and ferociously elegant in not-so-retro costumes by Constance Hoffman. Owen's edgy, masculine charm and absurdist sense of humor are on show and Best, as Anna, is completely believable as the object of lust for at least one of her dinner companions. Reilly has less script to work with and so often must communicate her uneasy marriage and unburied past with just soulful eyes and by pivoting her body.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Clive Owen makes a riveting Broadway debut in Harold Pinter's Old Times, playing a man whose cocky suavity slowly unravels as he negotiates his hold on two elusive women, who may be different sides of the same person...But director Douglas Hodge doesn't make the mistake of imposing explanations where none were intended as he charts a transfixing course from gamesmanship to the consuming loss of a fantasy that was perhaps never attainable to begin with. Audience response will depend largely on the appetite for Pinter at his most opaque -- or some might even say attenuated. This is not a play with the biting menace of earlier landmark works like The Birthday Party...Its fascination is quieter and more cryptic, to the point where some will find it bloodless. Hodge, a seasoned Pinter interpreter as both actor and director, proclaims rather loudly from the outset that the drama is unfolding in a disorienting void adjacent to reality.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Director Douglas Hodge...has made some curious production choices, but once the erotic games begin, you hardly notice that the writer's signature pauses and ominous silences have been trimmed. The most baffling aspect of the production isn't the play's elusive meaning or Pinter's ambiguous dialogue -- it's the setting...what to make of that solid block of ice in the shape of a door that dominates the room, which itself takes a twirl on a turntable for no earthly reason? Or the eyeball-searing strobe lights and that giant psychedelic whirligig and the loud metallic assault on our ears? It's a blessed relief when things settle down and Pinter's seductive parlor game for grownups can begin in earnest. In Reilly's controlled performance as the play's most controlling character, Kate doesn't seem to be looking forward to a visit from an old friend she hasn't seen in years...Owen has perfected the smoldering, could-be dangerous look of an imperfectly civilized hoodlum, so it's a nice jolt when he drops his cool facade and jumps at the idea that Kate's old friend might provide some insights into his inscrutable wife...There's nothing reserved about Anna, who exudes that air of confidence that comes from being married to a rich man.

David Cote, Time Out NY: Christine Jones's set is undeniably forceful -- a back wall covered with a vertiginous vortex that lights up, the "converted farmhouse" specified in Pinter's stage directions rendered as an island of high-gloss black surfaces upon which chic modern furniture floats (close observers will note a turntable moving very slowly). Combined with incidental music by Radiohead's Thom Yorke (industrial and menacing, as you'd expect), the mood is abstract, ghostly, interior. Problem is, the play already does all that: The designers are overdoing it...Owen and Reilly are quite good: He's coiled, boastful and sexy, with an edge of sleaze; she languorously transfers herself from divan to chair as if wafted by a draft, her sloe-eyed, sleepwalker presence belying a savage final attack. As the third wheel, Best, normally a steely presence, seems stranded between her costars' choices: too bland and self-contained when she should be spiky and aggressive...Despite overdetermined design and asymmetrical performances, Pinter's precise, lyrical language comes through with crystalized, cutting force.

Elysa Gardner, USA Today: It's our individual, subjective truths that Pinter is most interested in -- as a dramatist in general, and particularly in this memory play. In the new Roundabout Theatre Company production...director Douglas Hodge and a cast that includes Broadway newbie Clive Owen bring a darkly hypnotic pull to the challenging material. Having helmed and acted in Pinter's work extensively across the pond, Hodge understands the musicality of the language. The rhythms in Pinter's dialogue, punctuated by pauses, can be played at different tempos. There is a languid quality to this staging that, while seductive, doesn't always encourage the alert attention the text demands. Hodge does cull consistent, robust performances from his cast. As Kate, who speaks the least but gets the most attention, Kelly Reilly brings a perfect mix of elusiveness and quiet knowing. With her bell-like speaking voice and understated prettiness, Reilly is a compelling foil for the haughty glamour that Eve Best, excellent as always, brings to the more worldly Anna. Owen...captures the insecurity that can make Deeley seem both awkward and callous.

Linda Winer, Newsday: Is it possible to be dazzled by the cast, especially by Clive Owen in his Broadway debut, stunned anew by the elusive meanings of Pinter's "Old Times" and yet appalled by the production?...Let's say that director Douglas Hodge's tricked-up staging of this 65-minute 1971 gem is bizarre, at best, and betrays a lack of trust in the lean, unnerving brilliance we know as Pinteresque. Hodge...chose to superimpose an over-animated, high-concept spectacle on a playwright whose menace radiates from silence and things unsaid...The drama, such as it is, is built on innuendo and insinuation, not overacting and special effects. Owen is deliciously slick, but not too slick, and, every so often, intentionally, fantastically obnoxious as Deeley...Eve Best...has an imposing elegance as the guest who married well, and Kelly Reilly, as the wife, has the quiet feline languor of one who feels the desire simmer off the others in the room...Printed scripts are not holy writs but, at least in this case, Pinter knew best.

Robert Kahn, NBC New York: Bright flashes of light and discomforting noises make for a jarring start to Harold Pinter's 1971 "Old Times"...The sensory-assault -- truly, some may find the play's first half-minute or so hard on the eyes and ears -- announces we're back in Pinter territory: abstract, and make-of-it whatever we will...All the performers manage the tricky dialogue with finesse, making this the sort of revival you'd want to see a second time just to catch all the nuances. Owen, in his Broadway debut, is louche and bemused, at first pushing brandy on his wife's guest with cocky and jerky movements that seem particular to, well, Old Times ... or, at the very least, "Mad Men." Reilly uses her dreamlike gaze to fine effect as something of an introvert who doesn't like the way her husband bosses her around...The focal point of the production, though, is British actress Best.

Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: Douglas Hodge, an actor (Cyrano De Bergerac, La Cage Aux Folles) and experienced Pinter hand, has a fine trio to work with. Owen is particularly strong as Keely, his suavity just short of convincing: perfect. Eve Best, a phenomenal stage actress (A Moon For The Misbegotten, Hedda Gabler) is cunning as Anna, and Reilly strikes exactly the right balance between unaffected blankness and someone who knows in her bones that she, ultimately, is the prize Keely and Anna are battling over. Hodge and company play the humor over the menace, which mostly works in this brief drama...Detracting from the whole is that set, which is framed by an abstract swirl of circles, and some introductory music by Thom Yorke that nearly had me bolting from the theater before the proceedings got under way. Once they did however, I was hooked.

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: The late, great Harold Pinter installed wall-to-wall ambiguity in his 1971 memory play "Old Times." So it's remarkable when a flash of clarity comes in the Roundabout's stylized revival...Hodge, a Tony-winning actor, adds his own abstractions...The pleasures of the production come from watching three excellent actors...confidently wind through the words, pauses and poses. Owen ("The Knick") works his craggy good looks and is alternately rogueish and vulnerable. Reilly ("True Detective") looks the picture of pretty melancholy with her perennially pursed lips, but eventually reveals a sharp tongue. Best, a two-time Tony nominee who recalls a creamsicle with cleavage in her off-white jumpsuit, and lends sexiness, glamour and humor.

Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: The stars of "Old Times" always look like they're a second away from having sex. Clive Owen, Eve Best and Kelly Reilly generate such heat, you may need a cold shower after the show...But then it's also rare that you'd need to cool off at a show by Harold Pinter, the British playwright famous for mind games and maddeningly vague plots...The game here is all about ultra-smoldering looks between Owen and Best -- and between Best and Reilly. An ominous score by Radiohead's Thom Yorke adds to the creepy-sexy vibe. This may be his Broadway debut, but Owen...radiates a confident masculinity. His Deeley is the kind of guy who can get away with manspreading, and he's perfectly matched with Best, a voluptuous panther, and Reilly, she of the frostier sensuality. Altogether, the three generate genuine sexual chemistry...You may not tell what it all means, if anything, yet the message comes through: Game on!

Jesse Green, Vulture: Pinter means to keep the audience on its toes: There is detective work to be done, sorting out the relationships and alibis. The characters, both in their tastes and distastes, are perfectly etched...And, at a fleet 70 minutes with no intermission, the play smartly limits your exposure to the intense narcissism of people playing a game of erotic musical chairs. But for all its verbal brilliance and surgical precision in dissecting the characters' personalities, Old Times no longer feels quite real, if it ever did...if you see the play as a profound portrait of a permanent human condition, it's going to disappoint, which is exactly the trap Douglas Hodge's production falls into...He has encouraged an excellent play the subtext so broadly that it basically everts the drama, leaving very little sense that feasible humans are involved. Even so, the actors are good enough to make it fun: Owen a monkey on a hot tin roof, Best a Sicilian goddess, Reilly an impossibly sexy sphinx...But with neither the history nor the hostility very mysterious, the sum on this one-plus-one-plus-one plot is zero.

Robert Hofler, TheWrap: What's the opposite of deconstruction in the theater? I'm not sure. But that's what director Douglas Hodge does with "Old Times" in this Roundabout production...In Hodge's "Old Times," the actors aren't playing the subtext necessarily. They share a feverish imagination that doesn't have much to do with the text, but nonetheless illuminates it in quirky ways...Hodge and company emphasize that defiance...Owen, in his Broadway debut, gives us a Deeley who's not only soused from the get-go but fey in an attractively disheveled sort of way...For theatergoers who are tired of sitting through all those Pinter pauses, Hodge pushes his actors to speak rapid fire, often on top of each other; and when they do take a breath, it's much more than a pause. It's often a long, silent interlude in which they lounge around, smoke cigarettes, or strut as if readying themselves for the next barrage of words.

Toby Zinman, The Philadelphia Inquirer: To borrow a great line from Harold Pinter's Homecoming: "You never heard such silence," and in this brilliant Broadway production of Pinter's Old Times, directed by Douglas Hodge, the silences are simply deafening. The mysteries of memory, like the mysteries of marriage are the subjects of this elusive, tantalizing play but the great Sub-Texter himself, and this sleek and stylish British cast deepens the mysteries without ever solving them...The characters are isolated in space, silenced in mid-sentence, while jokey moments of coffee-sipping in unison and legs flung over chair arms break the tension momentarily. Similarly, the eerie electronic music by Thom Yorke and a sound design by Clive Goodwin bolster the atmosphere of dis-ease. Owen is sexy and swaggering and bewildered; Reilly, with her superb profile, is sexy and stern and unyielding; Best is sexy and opulent and, to use a word you don't hear much anymore, beguiling. All told is this a great and unnerving production.

Brendan Lemon, Financial Times: Under the direction of Douglas Hodge...Owen plays a filmmaker called Deeley as tough but not threatening. He is no longer laddish, but wishes that he somehow still were, and Owen gives him just enough exposed nerve endings to make his final breakdown ignite believably...Erotic overtones are never absent for long in this 70-minute evening. As Kate, Reilly parades seductively in a high-waisted skirt and, as Anna, Best assumes sex-kitten stances in her slinky white silk outfit. Initially the actors appear more interested in posing than in acting, but eventually they form a true ensemble. Best and Owen have a natural chemistry, especially in the comic moments...I did, on the other hand, mind about the production's set...But the actors' skilful by-play helps blot out the images, as do the thumping snatches of original music supplied by Radiohead's Thom Yorke.

Jonathan Mandell, DC Theatre Scene: Given both his acting talent and his love of Pinter, [Hodge] surely deserves some credit for the sophisticated and seductive performances by the three members of the cast: Owen is smooth and amused as Deeley; Kelly Reilly (also making her Broadway debut) is earthy and opaque as his wife Kate; Eve Best (best-known in the U.S. for her role as the British doctor and best friend in Nurse Jackie) is sexy and energetic as Anna, Kate's long-ago friend. They have mastered Pinter's tricky rhythms. But there's no getting around Pinter's deliberately cryptic text, and several of Hodge's choices, rather than working to ground the goings-on in some recognizable reality and thus orient the audience, instead seem to revel in the play's all but the acting, the Roundabout production works at feeling unrealistic.

Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: Seldom has an enigma been as ravishingly compelling as in the provocative revival of "Old Times" that opened Tuesday night at the American Airlines Theatre. With a trio of fine British actors breathing life into their cryptic characters, the dance of memory and seduction in Harold Pinter's brief 1971 play - it runs a little over an hour - never flags for an instant.

Matt Windman, amNY: There's really no middle ground when it comes to the late English playwright Harold Pinter. You're either mesmerized by his mysterious, menacing, pause-filled psychological dramas or you find them puzzling, inert and empty -- as I usually do. That being said, the Roundabout's new revival of his 1971 three-actor, 65-minute drama "Old Times" (which has an all-English cast and is directed by Tony-winning English actor Douglas Hodge) more than captures the playwright's distinctive style, packed with steel and sexiness. It is far better than the 2013 Broadway revival of Pinter's "Betrayal," which starred Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz.

Alexis Soloski, Guardian: In a 1971 interview, Harold Pinter spoke about his recently completed Old Times, a love triangle that is less a problem of geometry than metaphysics. "I'll tell you one thing," he said. "It happens. It all happens." It is now happening on Broadway, in a faintly compelling revival, directed by Douglas Hodge and starring Clive Owen, Eve Best and Kelly Reilly. It is happening on an extravagant set, perhaps somewhat far from Pinter's call for "a converted farmhouse." (His request for two sofas and an armchair have been honoured more literally.)

Fern Siegel, The Huffington Post: All three performances are sound, and their timing well calibrated by Hodge's direction. Clive Owen and Eve Best circle their cage and sniff their prey like polite, existential panthers. Kelly Reilly, in the most difficult role, neatly acts as a fulcrum to the seesaw power struggle until she claims ownership of her life.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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