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Old Times at Strawdog Theatre Company | Theater review

Michaela Petro seduces in Strawdog’s precise Pinter.

Photograph: Chris Ocken
Old Times at Strawdog Theatre Company

Standing at a window with her back to the audience, Anna (Michaela Petro) says nothing during the first scene of Pinter’s taut psychological drama. She stares at the horizon as the owners of the converted farm home discuss her forthcoming arrival. From the start, the lines between perception and reality are blurred. Truth is elastic, and memory is a fiction that changes depending on who’s telling the story.

The sitting room becomes a battlefield when Anna arrives, and in her manipulative hands the past is a weapon. Reuniting with Kate (Abigail Boucher) after 20 years apart, Anna steals control from Kate’s husband, Deeley (John Henry Roberts), by reshaping his memories to cast doubt on the foundation of his marriage. “There are some things one remembers even though they may have never happened,” Anna tells the couple, subtly revealing the strategy she will use to tear them apart.

In a tight black dress and leather knee-high boots, Petro is a sultry contrast to the poised Boucher. Seductive and predatory, Petro’s Anna captivates as she lures her hosts into her web, but the actor’s greatest strength lies in capturing Anna’s vulnerability when her prey bites back.

Anna comments on the silence that blankets the home; Kimberly Senior’s direction impressively handles Pinter’s pauses. The weight that exists in the unspoken exemplifies the specificity Senior and her ensemble employ in defining the characters’ complex, mercurial relationships.

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