Arts & Culture Blog
Actors Collective Plays Head Games in Pinter's Old Times
February 27, 2012
If you're looking for a weekend night out that leaves you uncertain of whether you're coming or going—not in a drunken, hazy kind of way, but an exhausting mental exercise fashion—the Actors Collective is serving up the right kind of entertainment with its stark and eerie—that is to say spot-on—production of Harold Pinter's Old Times, which closes next weekend.
Part of what makes this play so riveting is what makes it frustrating: You'll leave not knowing what on earth really happened, but if your taste is adaptable to Pinteresque distortions of time and space and, well, the entire foundation this deliberately enigmatic 1971 play is built upon, it's a positively unnerving journey down memory lane.
"There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened," says Anna, a visitor to an isolated country house in England, who's arrived to catch up for the first time in 20 years with her old roommate Kate.
And indeed, from straightforward chronology to complex questions of desire and power, it's not clear whether anything Anna remembers is true, or part of some manipulative game to win Kate back from her husband, Deeley.
It's Deeley and Anna, locked in a power struggle of their own, who do most of the talking, while Kate lolls about sometimes daydreaming, sometimes looking outwardly tortured. The days Anna reminds her of, when they lived in London among artists and stayed up half the night reading Yeats, never sound quite liberating and joyful though; they are years also fraught with memories of weeping, loneliness, and dangerous parks at night.
It slowly becomes clear that the entire play is seeping with sexual desire and an uncomfortable interest in actually possessing Kate—and her past. Anna and Deeley both remember seeing a movie, Odd Man Out, with her—particularly fitting since it seems that only one of them can have space in Kate's present life.
When Deeley, played by Greg Falge as a stern, self-important filmmaker, met his future wife in the movie theater, "I was off center," he says, "and remain so."
If there's any weakness to this bare-bones production, it's that Kate never exudes the sexual desirability both Anna and Deeley seem to associate with her. It's their competitive banter about blotting Kate dry with a towel, while Kate is offstage in the bath, that most reveals her sexual hold on both of them, but Julie Hughett, while beautiful and elegantly dressed, seems appropriately introspective but a little too passive to be a compelling magnet for these two strange people.
The biting script is laden with sexual imagery, even when Deeley invites Anna's husband to visit them from Sicily. His wide, he offers, will "dish him up something luscious, if not voluptuous."
It's Anna, though, who's the most seductive one of group, as she speaks in lilts of even dark memories. Nina Capriola plays here a subtly malicious character, dressed in a white dinner coat that looks chic or institutional depending on the moment.
Deeley claims to remember meeting Anna—and staring up her skirt—back in their London days. When it turns out she had a habit of borrowing (or stealing, depending on which character does the telling) Kate's underwear, the questionable encounter from their past again takes on a dimension about who is attracted to who. It's possible that the two women are alter egos of one character, or that one—or both—are dead.
Kate herself casually complains to Anna and Deeley for talking about her as if she's dead. But she's not so assertive as to ask them to stop.
There's a poetry to Kate's lines, especially when she talks about the only thing she loves about London. It's worth inhabiting a harsh city, she says, for the rainy days when edges disappear and everything becomes blurry.
So too, this play is a blur—but take comfort in director Jeffrey Heyer's program notes, which reassures audience members that they have an active role in figuring out exactly what it is they're seeing.
Remaining shows 7:30pm Fri and Sat, March 2 and 3. Carl Cherry Center, Fourth and Guadalpue, Carmel. $25/general; $10/students, seniors, military. 622-7206, www.carlcherrycenter.org.>