It's About Time
nytheatre.com review by Liz Kimberlin
April 27, 2005
It’s About Time, a new show written by Jessica Bowser and directed by Adam Bernstein, is an ingenious mini-spectacle that combines live theatre with electronic music and both live and pre-taped video to create the surreal deconstruction of a depressed young man’s personal epiphany.
The Chocolate Factory, located in Long Island City, couldn’t be a more appropriate venue for Confluence Theater Company’s very impressive production, which makes its world premiere after being presented as a work-in-progress in The Chocolate Factory’s Fresh Meat series in July 2004. The theater space is bare and cold and apparently occasionally doubles as an art gallery. The set design by Sarah Pearline is extraordinary. The black box stage is actually white, as are most of the set pieces—with the exception of a black futon bed that gets moved around so much that it almost becomes its own character. The far upstage wall serves as a giant video screen bordered on each side by the calendar cells of a magnified day planner. The overall effect is stark, sterile, cool, but creepy.
In It’s About Time, there are frequent references to a nebulous (offstage) entity known as The Praxis of IT. According to Dictionary.com (first definition), “praxis” means “practical application or exercise of a branch of learning.” So It’s About Time’s main character—the curiously named “Bang”—isn’t oppressed by a high-tech supervillain, a la Lex Luthor, or even by some lofty, bureaucratic, maybe-even-doesn’t-exist boogeyman, like Big Brother of Orwell’s 1984. The Praxis of IT happens to be a corporate self-help program on time management to which Bang becomes fanatically addicted so that he can avoid confronting the most frightening enemy of all—himself.
It’s Bang’s birthday and the night of the end of daylight savings time—he gets one extra hour. What is he going to do with it? We see through deliberately disjointed flashbacks, streams of consciousness, progress soliloquies that he videotapes live, and visits to the bowling alley, that Bang’s beautiful girlfriend, Maya, has dumped him, he hates his job, hates being alone, hates his life. Now, in accordance with the gospel of IT, Bang compulsively refuses to do even the simplest things that don’t achieve goal-oriented, quantifiable results. Goals are friends. Dreams—like the love of a woman or bowling the perfect game—are enemies. But Bang is not nearly as alone as he believes himself to be. There’s quirky, pretty Ritza, an assertive bowling alley attendant, who’s sweet on him and patiently waits in the wings for the right moment.
And then there’s Bing. Bing wears lots of hats. He’s Bang’s id, sense of humor, conscience, sub-conscious, subtext—a sort of mute guardian angel who follows Bang around and does all of Bang’s feeling for him. Bang is aware of Bing but he only occasionally acknowledges him, even when Bing is literally trying to smack some sense up side oblivious Bang’s head. Finally the moment comes when Bang can no longer ignore Bing, and the two characters engage in a furious brawl.
David Lillich gives a riveting performance as Bang, a formerly smug, minor league paper pusher now so desperate to give his life meaning that he makes it about nothing, except the efficient passing of time. Rather than take the morose path, Lillich’s determinedly upbeat portrait of Bang makes him more unnerving and pathetic than the scariest Amway apostle, but his charm still comes through. As Maya, Bang’s ex-girlfriend, Christine Ryndak is effectively sultry and aloof, but her lines tended to be delivered in blase monotone. Maya’s wonderfully shrewd monologue about the timeless necessity for bartenders couldn’t quite live up to its point as a result. We don’t see that much of life-embracing Ritza, a free spirit whose gentle persistence helps coax Bang out of his emotional swamp, but she is appealingly played by Jenny Tibbels. Fortunately, Tibbels gets her own brief moment in the spotlight with a monologue that defies political correctness and defends the incomparable social and psychological benefits of now and then going out for a smoke.
The standout performance comes from Craig Fitzpatrick as Bing, Bang’s suppressed psychic shadow. Bing has only a few moments of dialogue, in a dream sequence, when he actually "is" Bang, and in which the metaphor “being up a tree” becomes literal. The rest of the time Bing is mute. He bops hither and thither on the stage like a fussy, ineffectual nanny, pleading silently with Bang to stop doing this to yourself, stop doing it to me. Fitzpatrick has an open, vulnerable, animated face that deftly conveys Bing’s frustration and compassion towards Bang. There was a moment I almost didn’t see because the focus was on the downstage action. Bing, far upstage, gives a tiny wave of his hand and, ignored as usual, exits. It was sweet and sad. His absence was significant, and I missed him.
My admiration for Adam Bernstein, as well as his tech crew, is boundless for the execution of this most complex piece. The actors are marvelously synchronized, especially Lillich and Fitzpatrick. The presence of multimedia is indeed integral to the message of the show—although I’m not entirely sure what that message is—not just techno-cool eye candy. Bowser’s non-linear text has a few scenes of lucid narrative, the rest is in non-sequiturs. The story is nonetheless ultimately cohesive and relatively easy to follow, like dreams that make perfect sense while you dream them but not when you try to analyze them later.
It’s About Time is still a new, young piece with some bugs to work out of its program, but even at this stage it’s terrific.