Friday, May 15, 2009

Terry Teachout's Wall Street Journal Review of Old Times


Time was when Harold Pinter's shorthand dialogue struck most people as impenetrably mysterious -- and times, truth to tell, haven't changed all that much. Yet his best plays continue to make a powerful impression, and "Old Times," first seen on Broadway in 1971, has even become something of a regional-theater staple in recent years, partly because it can be produced so cheaply (three actors, one simple set) and partly because it's so theatrically effective. Pinter never wrote anything more potent than the enigmatic story of Deeley and Kate, an uneasily married couple whose life is disrupted by a visit from Anna, who knew Kate 20 years ago and appears (or maybe not) to have been romantically involved with her. Remy Bumppo Theatre, one of my favorite Chicago companies, is presenting this icy sparring match in an exceptionally satisfying production that has been staged with surgical skill by James Bohnen, the company's artistic director. Nick Sandys, Jenny McKnight and Linda Gillum all give tightly coiled performances that keep the tension rising all the way from curtain to curtain.

Mr. Teachout, the Journal's drama critic, blogs about theater and the other arts at Write to him at

Friday, May 8, 2009

Blog from Pinterland!

Week two, the reviews are coming out and are strong, the audiences, when they come, are having a fascinating time. Spread the word people. What was great on Sunday, after the matinee, was to see 75% of the audience stay for the talkback, not because they were lost , but because they seemed to want some confirmation on what they thought they understood. There were some great insights and some clear thinking and some fun questions—thank you to the gentleman who noticed all the detailed dialect work! We haven’t had that number of people stay since, oh I don’t know, maybe Hapgood, another brain teaser.

And in the midst of this we are also in the thick of Liaisons auditions, exhausting but exciting work, which I am trying not to let influence Deeley’s demeanor. David Darlow, herr Direktor, has got his work cut out because we just saw a great group of wonderful actresses, a lot of my favorite leading ladies from around Chicago theatres whose work I have admired and some beautiful young actresses new to me and to Remy Bumppo, and he has to make a choice for each role. We could probably cast the show three times over at this point. And I get paid to do this all day!—well, actually I don’t, but it’s the thought that…. counts.


Old Times on Chicago Tonight

Check out what Hedy Weiss says about Old Times on WTTW's Chicago Tonight.,8,8&vid=050509g

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Note from Nick Sandys...

So, first weekend after opening the show and already this adventure is proving tricky, entertaining and frustrating--just like the play itself. The noise from next door's Eclipse show has been less of a distraction than we thought, mainly because their big scream scene times out perfectly for our intermission. Now if only the patrons in the lobby would keep it down. And speaking of patrons, it has already become a massive test of focus in the first five minutes, with shufflers and late-seaters and simply nervousness, all of which is hugely amplified by Pinter's silences and the stillness of the performance. Even more than usual, one wants to turn round and say, "you do know we can see and hear you too" (the apocryphal story of Richardson in the NYC production of "No Man's Land" seems to ring true). Anyway....the show itself has received generally good reviews thus far, which is always lovely. And I have to say the audiences, once they tune in, have been all ears, especially in the last silent two minutes when the veritable pin can be heard tumbling deafeningly to the floorboards. What is tricky, however, is that each audience has been completely different. Just when we thought we had a handle on the pacing and the tone, in comes another group who either laugh far more, or who don't respond at all, and those pauses and silences suddenly start expanding and contracting as we try to work out how to ride the wave. When you have no dialogue to maintain a speed with, it becomes very difficult judging how time is actually passing. Only in Pinterland.....


Friday, May 1, 2009

What is Jenny/Kate Thinking?

From Jenny McKnight:

Those damn kids better get out of my yard...

It's nice here in the desert. Nice and hot. Lots of sandys...

There he goes, talking about his work again. Orson Welles, Schmorson Schwelles...

What is Linda/Anna Thinking?

From Linda Gillum:

"Alright, I'll play your game"

"I know I can make her happy"

What is Nick/Deeley Thinking?

Here are Nick's thoughts:

Actual line: “My mother would have a fit!”
Possible line: “ I can see right through to the other side, wow!” Thinking: “Right, then, all right, then, right, well, there you go, that is it, enough is enough, if you ask my opinion…. I know it is something to do with sex.”

Actual line: “I have my eye on a number of pulses, pulses all round the globe, deprivations and insults…”
Possible line: “ I hate these bloody loafers! Have you seen these revolting things? But at least I have two! And they’re mine!”
Thinking: “ Enough of this British reticence and subtlety. Time to do some good ol’ Chicago shouting! Maybe that’ll help.”

Actual line: “Long Silence”
Possible line: “You can hear the sea sometimes, if you listen very carefully.”
Thinking: “Come on, woman, blink, blink! All right, I suppose you aren’t even going to do that for me.”

Actual line: “Silence”
Possible line: “If I try the Vulcan mind-meld on myself, maybe I’ll be smart enough to understand this play—or at least understand this woman!”
Thinking: “Phew, we have reached the final tableau, the cage of infinity, I am a teary, nose-drippy mess, my character’s life is in tatters, his emotions are flayed, his psyche shredded—aah, it’s just one more night in the theatre… I believe I’ve earned this drink.”