Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review of "An Opening in Time"

A man and woman’s unrequited romance from 30 years ago forms the basis for Christopher Shinn’s unsatisfying new play, An Opening in Time, playing at Hartford Stage through October 11th.  This is a very meditative work where events happen, conversations are manufactured, and very little of substance occurs.

Anne (Deborah Hedwall) has recently moved back to her hometown after the death of her husband.  Ron (Patrick Clear), a high school drama teacher discovers she has returned.  Decades earlier their lives and passions could have drawn them together, but life’s circumstances kept them apart.  Now, potentially together again, the question swirls around Antje Ellermann’s artfully rendered clapboard house set design--will their unfulfilled relationship be reborn or languish.

The playwright spends a good amount of time setting up what turns out to be a lackluster heart-to-heart encounter.  There are a number of tangential threads—Anne’s relationship with her estranged son, the befriending of the foster child living next door, the vandalism of her newly purchased house—that somewhat flesh out her current circumstances.  They also serve as a catalyst for some of the underlying reasons the two main protagonists had difficulty years earlier and now, once again, as they reenter each other’s lives.  However, these diversions are more superficial then helpful in understanding Anne and Ron’s psyche.  There are a lot of scene changes, which only exasperate a fragmented dramatic structure.

While the cast is uniformly fine, the sweeping impression is of forced emotions and drama.  Characters come across as one-dimensional.  If they were more fully developed this would have strengthened the secondary roles and helped in providing a better back story for the play.  The believability factor is low even during the major confrontations and scenes of angst.  Deborah Hedwall does embody Anne with a quiet determination as she searches for purpose and possibly salvation in her new environment.  Sometimes, though, I found the actress too understated as she went about her business.  Patrick Clear’s Ron is a jumble of emotions.  He is agitated, excited and detached, but his pent-up feelings and outbursts come across as labored.

Director Oliver Butler spends a good deal of time orchestrating scene changes with sets coming from the wings and up through the floors.  He keeps the action flowing and can bring some intimacy and wistfulness to certain scenes, but the overall presentation is more incomplete then of a finished product.

An Opening in Time, playing at Hartford Stage through October 11th.

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