Old Times

While it's easy to write off nihilism, the absurd, and existentialism as reactions to the horrors of World War II, this explanation overlooks the fact that these philosophies capture part of the truth of human existence, as anyone who has ever studied Beckett, Ionesco, or Pinter is well aware.

Photo of Kurt Brighton (Deeley), Denise Perry-Olson (Anna), and Mare Trevathan Philpott (Kate)
Kurt Brighton (Deeley),
Denise Perry-Olson (Anna),
and Mare Trevathan Philpott (Kate)
Photo courtesy Bas Bleu Theatre
In Bas Bleu's current production of Harold Pinter's Old Times, we are privy to a Theatre of the Absurd masterwork that illustrates how compelling this approach can be. With three well-developed characters, Pinter gets us to question our perception of what appears to be a simple story: a married couple is visited by the wife's ex-roommate, someone she hasn't seen in twenty years.

By the end of the piece, however, perfectly rational theatregoers are left wondering, among other things, whether each of the characters isn't really an aspect of just one of the characters, or whether one or more of the characters aren't dead. This is, of course, exactly the effect that Pinter intended—to play with ambiguity and memory in a realistic setting as a means of getting his audience to question their most basic premises about the world.

What arises from this exercise is, surprisingly, a sense of honest humanism that fills the idealistic void left by the conflagrations that engulfed the world just over a half century ago.

Photo of Kurt Brighton (Deeley) and Denise Perry-Olson (Anna)
Kurt Brighton (Deeley)
and Denise Perry-Olson (Anna)
Photo courtesy Bas Bleu Theatre
Deeley, a successful film-maker, and his wife, Kate, are entertaining Anna at their country home. After establishing what appears to be a secure marriage, Pinter plays Deeley against Anna, each for their claim on Kate who, despite her occasional engagement, remains aloof from the fray.

Kurt Brighton treats us to a score of nuances as Deeley—urbane, witty, debonaire, jealous, angry, and vulnerable—as he metamorphoses from predator to prey, while Denise Perry-Olson's Anna glides from chatty to catty, friend to vixen: first ingratiating, then seducing both Deeley and Kate with her Cheshire Cat grin and latent motives.

Photo of Denise Perry-Olson (Anna) and Mare Trevathan Philpott (Kate)
Denise Perry-Olson
(Anna) and Mare
Trevathan Philpott (Kate)
Photo courtesy
Bas Bleu Theatre
Mare Trevathan Philpott reveals more about the enigmatic Kate's character through internal dialogue, manifested through facial expressions and carriage, than by the words she speaks, feeding the interpretation that she is the central, and perhaps only, living character in the play.

Director Cathy Reinking knowingly explores every ambiguity Pinter has built into the script, leaving no safe haven for moral or empirical certitude. Even Sotirios Livaditis' simple set adds to the perceptual twists embodied in the text.

Bas Bleu's lean production of Old Times makes it easy to see why many have placed this among Pinter's best work. The production runs through June 26th. 1-970-498-8949 or

Bob Bows


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