The ghosts of our past are ones we have to learn to live with. They exist around us, stick to us, drain our spirit if we let them. In “Old Times” by Harold Pinter, the ghosts of the past are real and they invade the present life of a couple that has escaped the big city and its ghosts to live in the countryside. But as we come to find out with them, you can’t get rid of them by escaping, only by confrontation. Revived and directed so precise by Christopher Martin, this production sets up the fireworks for this moment, but does his meticulous hand let the play light them?
Pinter’s writing is one that has nuances in the smallest of details. It’s those nuances that boil to the point that drives characters to make their decisions. In “Old Times,” the stoic characters go line by line trying to find a place where they can reach an understanding. Kate and Deeley (played by Katarina Vizina and Philip O’ Gourman) are expecting the visit of Kate’s old roommate Anna (Danielle Shimshoni.) In the first scene, we see Deeley is not a fan of Kate’s old friend, and his distaste for her is apparent. Kate, on the other hand, seems to be enjoying his insecurity and looks forward to the visit.
Once Anna arrives, Deeley does not break and makes her visit as uncomfortable as possible, as the mysteries behind his behavior are revealed. We finish with a revelation that exorcises the ghosts but devastates the living. Unfortunately, this production never gets close enough to reach those high stakes that are in the script, giving us more a slow moving burn that never justifies its pace.
It was difficult to care what was happening on stage. The characters moved in synchronicity with a puppet hand, making them feel more like pieces on a board game than actors on a stage. Their lack of chemistry made it difficult for the audience to connect with them, and took away the impact of the words Pinter wrote. The characters do not grow, do not change, they say the same thing over and over again. While the script helps, and their individual performances were fine, it’s the overbearing direction that takes away the sparks.
Martin, a veteran director of the NYC scene, has created many works throughout the years that have been thrilling and convincing. This is not one of them. “Old Times” by Harold Pinter, is a great work by a master playwright that has not dated well. While watching the production, I asked myself why do we rely so much on these playwrights still? Haven’t we had new work exploring these themes and ideas? What was Christopher Martin hoping to accomplish with this revival he couldn’t find in a new play? You don’t question this when you see great productions of old work, because great production finds a new thing to say within it. I still don’t know what Martin was trying to say with this one and couldn’t see the purpose on their actions. And the biggest problem was, there was nothing new with it.
Out of four stars:
Twisted Talk: Have you seen any Christopher Martin productions before? Are you familiar with “Old Times?” Discuss below!