Monday, October 12, 2015

Broadway Theater Review: Old Times with Clive Owen

It’s Just Like Old Times – We Still Don’t Get This Play
By Lauren Yarger
Is she real? Are they both real? Were they both real at one time, but now dead and only in the imagination of the man?

These and other questions can be yours if you take in Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway revival of Harold Pinter’s Old Times. But the lack of comprehension isn’t the fault of this production, featuring film actor Clive Owen in his Broadway debut, Eve Best (from TV’s “Nurse Jackie”) and Kelly Reilly (the TV and film star also making her Broadway debut), all ably directed by Douglas Hodge (a premiere interpreter of Pinter’s plays).

It’s the play’s.

Owen is Deeley, a man looking forward to meeting Anna (Best), an old friend of his wife, Kate (Reilly) who is stopping by after many years. Kate doesn’t seem to remember a lot about Anna, despite the fact that they were roommates and that Anna used to borrow her underwear. When Anna shows up, things get even more confusing. It might have been Kate who instigated that underwear-sharing thing and Deeley might even have seen some of it prior to his marriage to Kate. He remembers meeting Anna one night at a tavern and looking up her skirt. Could that have been the underwear borrowed from his wife whom he later met at a movie?

Does anyone seriously care?

Meanwhile, it doesn’t take this 70-minute, one act play too long before it takes a Pinter-esque turn into cloudy territory. Soon, we’re not sure whose version of events is real, if anyone’s. Is it Anna’s sensual and humorous take? Is it Kate’s submissive and numb account or is it Deeley’s confused, desperate angst?

We didn’t know what the play was about 44 years ago when it premiered on Broadway and we still don’t, but people love to debate the possibilities. They all focus on memory and what parts of it are reliable. This play, in fact, is one of the playwrights series of  “memory plays."
There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened,” Anna says. “There are things I remember which may never have happened but as I recall them, so they take place."

I won’t try to capture the elusive message here. No one has come up with any conclusions for decades and meanwhile, Pinter also was awarded Pulitzer and Nobel prizes for his enigmatic plays, so what do I know?

But I will tell you what I liked about this production. The performances are passionate. And the set! The sharp, looming hypnotic backdrop, designed by Christine Jones and expertly lighted by Japhy Weideman, takes us on a visual tour of the downward spiral these characters enter mentally, and metaphorically referred to as ripples on a pond (though it is hard to see anything at times through the haze of all the cigarette smoke generated by characters smoking through their angst). There’s a symbolic, very cool (no pun intended)  ice cube of a door too. Music by Thom Yorke adds to a haunting atmosphere, even if we don’t know exactly why we feel unsettled.

Old Times plays a limited engagement through Nov. 29 at the American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St. NYC. Performances are Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 pm; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm; Check for some schedule changes in November. Tickets: $67–$137; (212) 719-1300;

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Sexual dialogue
-- Scantily clad actress

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice preseint and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (event manager for the annual awards ceremony), The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and the Drama League. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She also is a member of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and The O'Neill Theatre Center..

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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