Pinter’s “Old Times” Premieres in Frear

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

oldtimes25.JPGRachel Sugar and Stephen Graf in “Old Times”. See more photos by Carolyn Whipple

“Old Times” whose very title suggests willful nostalgia, is a play that explores the shifting boundaries of memory as three characters’ assemble and revive memories with fraught, tangled results. The play, written by Harold Pinter, will be performed in Frear Ensemble Theater, LPAC, at 7 pm tonight, 7 and 10 pm on Saturday, and 7 pm on Sunday.

“There are some things one remembers even though they never happened. There are things I remember which may never have happened but as I recall them they take place.” These lines, spoken by Stephanie Duncan’s ’08 character, Anna, illustrate well the struggle the characters face as they grapple with the way they define themselves and their stories. At the center of the conflict is Kate, played by Rachel Sugar ’08, whose past and present collide when she introduces her husband, Stephen Graf ’09, to her old friend, Anna.

Amidst so much remembering, the play is given an ‘old time’ feel in several ways. The stage, managed by Anna Belc ’07, and set, designed by Paul Moffitt, is a versatile, elusive space and Simon Harding’s ’99 lighting creates enigmatic and intriguing effects. The recurrence of 1940s jazz and musical lyrics evokes Cole Porter and Ella Fitzgerald while the actors who recline and smoke cigarettes with the aplomb of Lauren Bacall or Ingrid Bergman, wear a vintage wardrobe designed by Allison McCarthy ’09.


The play is the honors acting thesis of Rachel Sugar who selected the piece at the recommendation of Assistant Professor Elizabeth Stevens. “It’s unlike anything I’ve done at Swarthmore. It’s very mysterious, but the characters are human, not tremendously stylized… the role is just really hard, but it’s a tempting challenge.”

Sugar is especially grateful to director Sarah Sanford ’99, who has also worked with the Pig Iron Theater Company. “I’ve been incredibly directed,” she observes, noting that Sanford is “a great acting teacher” as well. Sugar has enjoyed working with such a small and familiar group: “I’ve worked with Anna before. I’ve worked with Steph Duncan almost every semester; we worked together on three shows last semester. I’ve worked a little bit with Stephen …. [A small cast] is intense in a way that a big cast is not.”


Sugar encourages audiences to come to the show open to its mystery yet without expecting a resolution: “The trick is not to be alienated… but to allow it all to percolate together.” She hopes that the performance will “impact the audience emotionally without understanding the logic of the play.”


  1. Great show. These three are great actors anyhow, but it looks like a lot of work went into making this a less mannered set of performances, and it paid off, in spades.

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