One of the pleasures of reviewing theater in the Twin Cities is discovering another brave, small theater company tackling a challenging play and nailing it. The company is Nightpath Theatre, the play is “Old Times,” a modern classic by Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter, and the place is the stripped down Loring Alley Theater, a space that compels an audience to relate to the revelations on the stage in an immediate way. The entire experience – from climbing the loading dock steps to the entrance, to the play’s quietly disturbing conclusion – is all about engagement. This is good, good theater.
Kate and Deeley have a visitor, Kate’s old friend, Anna. But is it Kate and Deeley who are the couple? Is Anna a friend to one or both, really? Is she even there? Still alive? What, in this scenario, is reality, and what is some form of their pasts? The action of the play is excruciatingly simple; its most memorable lines complicate it considerably:
”There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened. There are things I remember which may never have happened but as I recall them so they take place,” says Kate.
She also tells Anna, “I remember you dead.” Does she? And what, exactly, was the relationship of the three? Deeley tells Anna that Kate’s “only claim to virtue was silence.” Anna tells Deeley, “You have a wonderful casserole … I mean, wife.”
Messages in the subtext – and in the nonverbal interaction – eke out and explode like tiny bombs. They seem accustomed to communicating like this. There’s very little reaction. Except for Deeley. Clearly his anxiety is growing. Whoever Anna is, he doesn’t want her there. He knows what will happen.
Blake Bolan as Kate is detached, maintaining a bemused expression regardless of the subject at hand, so the smallest adjustments – a tiny turndown of her lips into a frown – takes on importance. As Bolan plays it, we begin to wonder if she’s just a memory. Nicely done. Anna, played by Sheila Regan, is the more outgoing female presence. Should we like her? Worry for her? Believe anything she says? Regan plays her with careful duplicity, and quite the foil for Kate’s silence. Joey Metzger as Deeley has the pivotal role here. I was completely caught up in his dilemma – whatever it is! Something sad and regretful is weighing on him. Metzger shows wonderful discipline in letting it out in measured amounts. All this is supported by Maggie Scanlon’s fine direction.
Let’s call it a “memory mystery” play. People don’t remember things accurately, or even consistently, and whatever we remember is, for us, what actually happened. Regardless of the “plot,” the human dynamics are as real and complex as life itself. You will certainly have plenty to talk about.
The theater is located in the coolest alley in town, right behind the Café Lurcat, Café Maude and Joe’s Garage by Loring Park. Once you nab a parking spot, there’s no reason to go right home afterward.
The play runs through November 17. Don’t miss it.