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Text of article from The Courier News newspaper
November 7, 2008  

Vex brings 'Old Times' to the present

Sometimes memory serves correctly, and other times not so much.

Through a triangle of characters and their reactions to conflicted memories, Vex Theatre Company will perform Old Times , written by Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter. The haunting yet comical play, which opens today, will be presented at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 16 at the Elgin Art Showcase.

"The performance is one that just about everyone can relate to," said South Elgin's Marc Jolley, who plays Deeley, the lead role. "Think about the tension that is experienced at a Thanksgiving dinner table, when families get together after not seeing each other for a long time. Well, the tension in this story is that multiplied by 10."

The recipe for that dynamic is found in the chemistry between Kate, played by Cheryl Rice of Elmhurst, Kate's husband Deeley, and Kate's former college roommate, Anna, who shows up for a visit after 20 years. As recollections surface, the characters are thrown into a struggle over whose memories are accurate and what will result, said Cathleen Ann, who plays Anna.

"This play is unusual in its structure, because it doesn't have as clear an ending as people might be used to," said Ann, of Palatine. "It reaches a point where all the characters are exposed to an unexpected truth about the other two. So it comes to a head at the end, but audiences are also left to wonder what will happen with the characters."

Thought-provoking theater is what inspired the group's name, Vex Theatre, according to Ann, who founded the company in 2004 with Rich Geiger of Palatine. Geiger is directing Old Times.

"There is something so special, almost magical, to Pinter's language," said Geiger. "It is simple, plain language with many rough, short sentences. ... It really is a beautiful use of language, especially when he puts in his famous pauses where the characters respond not with words but with silence."

The appeal of playing a character in a Pinter play lies in the writing of the characters, their great depth and Pinter's extraordinary use of language, Jolley said. "There is a lot of heavy meaning in everything that he writes. He is extraordinary."

Vex Theatre selects plays that give audiences a connection to their own lives, according to Ann.

"Everyone can relate to the thought of trying to connect with someone who was very important in your life at one time," she said, "and trying to mesh that person with the people in your present life."