This year it is not so much as the play is the thing, as the acting is the thing. Harold Pinter’s revival of his 1971 three-character play Old Times, at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s American Airlines Theatre is confusing. Clive Owen, making his Broadway debut is charis- matic, with spot on timing. British actors Eve Best and Kelly Reilly keep him on his toes.
The play is a short 65 minutes and what it lacks is an arc. We barely skim the surface of these three who may or may not be alive, from this world or are truly what we are seeing. It is an oblivion where the past is never seen clearly. It is a modern version of Sartre’s No Exit.
Here Deeley (Owens) and his wife, Kate (Reilly) await the arrival of Anna (Best), Kate’s only friend and roommate. Once Anna arrives, Deeley and Anna vie for a a regal and composed Kate. The tension mounts as Deeley and Anna trade stories about Kate. There is sexual elec- tricity between Deeley and Kate, Deeley and Anna and Anna and Kate. In the end it is Kate whom we watch and wonder just what the hell happened here. You will leave the theatre deep in thought and conversation.
Owen has masculine testosterone in spades, as he tries to be so suave but we see the under- lining working-class accent making him sinister and dangerous. It is a layered performance that is interesting to watch.
Best, never makes the sensuality and cunningness of Anna seem real. It was hard to buy into her performance.
It is Kelly Reilly who draws us in with her stillness. You cannot take your eyes off her for fear you will miss her slight of hand movement, which is etched into her entire being.
Christine Jones’s set, is like a Van Gough painting of concentric circles of what could be a portion of “Starry Night.”
Directed by Douglas Hodge, who last played Cyrano on this stage, Old Times is more like a theatrical exercise in which we are mesmerized by the technique.
Old Times: Roundabout Theatre Company, American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St. until November 29th.