time, et. al.: a cautionary tale about love and time travel
nytheatre.com review by Matthew Freeman
August 10, 2008
In the 2006 film The Lakehouse, according to wikipedia, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock are able to communicate by way of time traveling. . .mail. Or something like that. I haven't seen it. I don't think many people did. Doesn't matter. Playwrights Jennifer Lynn Jordan and Gil Varod have seen it. And they thought the movie was implausible nonsense. Their play, time, et. al.: a cautionary tale about love and time travel, seems written entirely in response to this un-classic picture. They want to show their audience the dark side of something that will never happen to them.
They succeed. I hereby promise never to marry anyone that I met through a time wormhole. Consider me convinced.
In time, et. al., William finds a trunk on the street. In the trunk is a diary. The diary is kept by a woman named Clara in 1925. When he writes, on a whim, a response to a diary entry and puts it back in the trunk, he finds she has responded. Hence, a wormhole. In the trunk. In the apartment he shares with his brother Theodore.
What are the odds?
To quote Roger Ebert's review of The Lakehouse: "Enough of the plot and its paradoxes. What I respond to in the movie is its fundamental romantic impulse."
Perhaps that is good advice for anyone muddling through time, et. al. To call what it has internal logic is to misunderstand the meaning of the word logic. There is simply no real attempt to explain the rules of the story. For example: the diary is able to be passed from 1925 to "today." But nothing else is transferred. People in the trunk go nowhere. Other stuff in the trunk? Unaffected. So how do our characters actually travel through time? By entering "The Dreaming" while they sleep and walking through metaphysical doors. Which has. . .exactly nothing to do with trunks and diaries.
So I shall listen to Roger Ebert and ignore the logic, which will only ruin it for me. What of the romance? The characters? A bit strained, honestly. But you wouldn't know it from the work of the actors, who all succeed at transcending the material. Stuart Luth, as William, makes quick his transition from naïve lover to frustrated husband believable. Jedediah Baker is appealing and funny as William's eager brother Theodore.
Most impressive is Lucy Owens, shining in the oddly written role of Clara. Clara winds up in the future, where she seems utterly bewildered by cell phones and alarm clocks, and eventually falls into a sort of half amnesia/half depression. I wasn't sure why. 1925 isn't yesterday, sure, but they already had electricity and radio. It doesn't seem like alarm clocks and cell phones would cause her to respond like Saturday Night Live's Caveman Lawyer. No matter. Owen finds humor and intention in each moment.
There are moments of humor in the production, and surely these shirk convention. Perhaps with more time (pun intended) this script could have the internal consistency required to keep an audience more invested, and less distracted.