I’ve been a fan of Clive Owen since he played Derek Love in 1990’s Chancer. As Love (and Smith in my unconventional favorite Shoot ‘em Up), Owen demonstrates a superior ability to embody a flirtatious character with intension and intensity while simultaneously winking at his own sexiness. He draws on this skill as Deeley in his Broadway debut, Harold Pinter’s Old Times. Moving with feline grace around the platform center stage, Owen’s Deeley spins his vivid tales as both seducer and seduced. His silky rich tones almost make up for the fact that most of what he shares probably never happened.
Deeley’s epic storytelling is rivaled by Eve Best’s Anna, who may be his wife’s best friend or her alter-ego depending on your interpretation of this hazy work. Dressed in a flowing white pants suit, she literally reflects most of the light and energy on stage. If only those two were equally matched by Kelly Reilly’s Kate, the woman at the heart of the plot. Ms. Reilly is so distant she could be having a beer at the Dave and Buster’s across the street. Her overly relaxed manner even affects her ability to articulate clearly, as if she’d taken elocution lessons and forgotten to remove the marbles from her mouth. This is particularly frustrating at the end of play, when she delivers a closing speech that’s hard to follow under the best of circumstances. Whether this is fault of the actress or misguided cues from director Douglas Hodge is hard to judge.
The exploration of the relationship between reality and imagination is emphasized in the marvelous set by Christine Jones. At times it looks like natural ripples in a pond, a metaphor for the way in which Kate enters relationships. At other moments it appears as a giant abstract painting under Japhy Weideman’s dazzling lighting design. Totally out of synch with the atmosphere is Thom Yorke’s music, an unwelcome intruder into the powerful space usually occupied by the famous Pinter pauses.
Old Times is short on story and long on mood. If you give yourself over to the dreaminess — not too hard to do with Mr. Owen in the house — it’s a pleasant enough way to spend 65 minutes.
Old Times is playing at the American Airlines Theater through November 29. Visit http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/Shows-Events/Old-Times.aspx for tickets and information.