Better with time
Over the years, Available Light Theatre and its predecessor BlueForms Theatre Group have staged original works that have told a narrative and others that have swirled around a notion. Available Light's Time and a Few Words melds these two approaches, but in the process may shortchange them both.
The narrative finds Gabriel (Ian Short), a scientist experimenting with the manipulation of time, trying to reach his wife Lee (Acacia Duncan). She seems to suffer from some strange combination of depression and, like Vonnegut's Billy Pilgrim, having become "unstuck in time."
With the help of his scientific mentor Doc (Chip Becker), his sister Caroline (Michelle Schroeder), and friends Beth (Aran Carr) and June (Eleni Papaleonardos), Gabriel painstakingly tries to re-create a specific moment of shared happiness so that Lee can find her way back to her proper time and self.
What is most successful - and most intriguing - about Time and a Few Words is its own conscious orchestration of time, concretely demonstrating some of its philosophical points.
Two representative scenes suggest what Available Light is up to. In the first, June instructs Gabriel on the art of meditation as a means to deal with his own despair. As they sit cross-legged on the floor, the play slows nearly to a stop in a theatrical equivalent of a musical ritardando. The effect is otherworldly, and in decades of theatergoing, I have rarely seen it done quite so effectively.
Just a few minutes later, the whole cast launches into one of Available Light's signature Anne Bogart-inspired movement and text passages. Rapid-fire quotations and adages about time are coupled with a frenetically comic follow-the-leader romp through the cluttered set.
To continue the musical metaphor, this is a breathless presto. Under Matt Slaybaugh's meticulous direction, each scene of the collectively composed script could easily have been assigned its own time signature.
Available Light has created more successful narrative plays and staged better thematic compilations, but the synthesis that is Time and a Few Words works more often than not.
And if you've never seen their work before, it really is about time.