Is it better to know the truth, or to think you know the truth? Such delicious questions always come along with every night of theater spent in the presence of a Harold Pinter play.
There is a delicious production of Pinter’s “Old Times (1971),” directed by Cynthia Meier now playing at the Rogue Theatre, 300 E. University Blvd. Adding an aperitif are Meier and Joseph McGrath doing the pre-show playlet “Night (1969),” which also shakes up the shared memories of a long-time married couple trying to remember the details of their first date.
Both were among Pinter’s memory plays, as they are called, which become mind games of ambiguity. Logically, it would seem like truth is truth, no matter what we believe.
Pinter thinks not. Truth may be ascertained in the science lab, but real life is another matter altogether. “Old Times” plays cat-and-mouse with issues of fidelity. Meier enjoys bringing out the green-eyed nuances of insecurity, as well as hanging her actors on the horns of moral dilemmas.
For emphasis, the costumes and sets are all completely black, on which is set white furniture and a white coffee service.
The setting is an English country home in the late 1960s where Joseph McGrath plays the cocksure Deeley, a filmmaker married to the devoted and domesticated Kate (Avis Judd). The play opens with Deeley and Kate discussing the imminent arrival of Anna (Laura Lippman), who was Kate’s lively roommate when both were single girls in London living a gay but low-budget bohemian lifestyle.
The surprise comes when we discover Deeley’s irritation over the implication that Kate and Anna might have had a more intimate relationship during those psychedelic days when England swung like a pendulum did. The more Deeley tries to find out what really went on between these two young women back then, the more coquettish they become and the more Deeley’s confidence melts away.
But the plot is not so simple as all that. Pinter would never tell anyone what to think. Meier as director loves to leave all the open spaces available to all. Like tea leaves in a cup these silent moments can be read any number of ways.
Should you be in a vengeful mood, you can side with Deeley…or maybe Anna, the financially successful friend who subtly flaunts her comfortable life in a grand home on a craggy hill with a lovely view of the Mediterranean Sea.
Those of a more spiritual persuasion could imagine Anna to be the more sexually expressive side of responsible Kate.
Maybe ignorance is bliss, after all.
“Old Times” is definitely not one of those plot-driven sit-com productions leading the audience to a punch line conclusion. Emotions are suggested, possibilities engaged. The three actors, like a trio of musicians, feel an unheard beat and keep the emotions flowing to sweep the audience along.
As a pure theater experience, the two theater pieces are further enhanced by a performance 15 minutes before curtain of three works by Astor Piazzolla: “Primavera Portena,” “Triston” from “Cinco Piezas” and “Oblivion.” This tasty treat is not to be missed.
The musicians are Dawn Sellers, piano, Tim Blevins, violin, and James Beauchamp, cello.
“Old Times” and its full entourage of extras will be presented through Sunday, March 13, at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, always at the Rogue Theatre, 300 E. University Blvd. Tickets are $25, half-price student rush 15 minutes before curtain with valid student ID. Thursdays, March 3 and 10, are “$25 or pay-what-you-will.” For details and reservations, 551-2053, or visitwww.theroguetheatre.org. Do not miss the music!