A new revival of the Harold Pinter play "Old Times" opened at the American Airlines Theater Tuesday night. Time Out New York contributing critic David Cote filed the following review for NY1.
The first word in “Old Times,” Harold Pinter’s unnerving 1971 drama about memory and fidelity, is “dark.” It is in reference to the hair of a woman visiting a husband and wife at their country house.
“Dark” is actually a fair summation of the murky cavern surrounding Clive Owen and Kelly Reilly at the American Airlines Theatre, in this often compelling but overdesigned revival.
Christine Jones’s set is undeniably forceful—a looming back wall covered with a vortex that lights up, the “converted farmhouse” of Pinter’s stage directions rendered as an island of glossy black surfaces that rotates almost imperceptibly. Combined with creepy incidental music by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, the mood is abstract, ghostly, brooding. Problem is, the play does all that: The designers are overdoing it.
We know the British director, Douglas Hodge, more as an actor - he was the Roundabout’s Cyrano de Bergerac in 2012 - so you expect him to be stronger on acting. And yes, Clive Owen and Kelly Reilly are quite good: He’s coiled, boastful and sexy, with an edge of sleaze; she’s languorous and inscrutable, her sloe-eyed, sleepwalker presence belying a savage final attack. As the third wheel, Eve Best, normally a strong presence, seems stranded between her costars’ choices: too bland and self-contained when she should attack. On the plus side, Owen is enjoyably nasty and sly, as he – and we – try to determine reality from fantasy.
Despite questionable design and acting choices, Pinter’s precise, poetic lines come through with insinuating force. The impact of this 70-minute play lies in how the act of recalling the past is like a battle. The weapons here are memories – old times that draw fresh blood.