Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: The Complications of Time Travel

I think we all have a fantasy of traveling through time. To explore a time you wish you lived in. To see the future. To go back to that one moment you want to do over. Whatever it is, it’s a fun concept to explore. In Mim Granahan’s Making History, a scientist restarts a failed time machine project that alters his life when his work is a success.
Mim Granahan's wildly chaotic yet fascinating script Making History follows Patrick Tyler as he develops a time machine that actually works and severely alters the lives all he touches when he gets stuck in the past and amends his future. Patrick, who has a family in the present, ends up starting a family in the past. When he is finally able to return to the present, he discovers that the only way to make his life right is to travel back and forth to the 80s to keep both families. Granahan has a script that is engaging but to put it bluntly, it’s in the wrong medium. Making History is a script that requires attention to detail and a budget that will allow for the nuances to shine. And for that, Making History wants to live on film. Transform it into a screenplay and it becomes endearing and Patrick can jump from world to world with the magic of cinematography. In its current state, the time travel doesn't quite land and comes off as lackluster. Granahan has a brilliant conceit by blending the parallel times, but with the limitations in production, it looks messy. Regardless of the medium, the script needs a little clarity. The timeline was quite complicated and took time to comprehend. The rules of the world seemed ever changing. Perhaps it takes that keen sci-fi mind to quickly grasp, but finding a simple way for the average person to catch on could work in the pieces advantage. The morals that Granahan offers is something that is heart-warming, but with a cheesy execution, it doesn’t quite resonate.
photo courtesy of Cary Davis 
To make history, a large ensemble is necessary to live in the two times. As the link to the worlds, Patrick Tyler needs to be strong. As Patrick, Cory Boughton was out of his element. The role is a mammoth part, spanning an abundance of control even when losing it. Boughton was lost in his own world. Thankfully he had some help to ground him. As usual, leave it to the bumbling sidekicks to steal the spotlight. And Making History brought you two! In the present it was Adam Files as Freddie and in the past it was Rob Brown as Alvin. Files and Brown were radically different types of scientist and yet perfectly acted as a sidekick. Files brought a nerdy cool aura to Freddie. The young gun scientist was one of the strongest in the pack. Brown’s Alvin was that old-school comedic mad scientist that offered some brilliant moments. Though she seemed more 70s than 80s, Melissa Roth as Ione, Patrick’s bride in the 80s, gave a solid performance. Amy Overman was firm in her portrayal as future daughter Harmony. In the present, Mim Granahan and Erik Olson played wife and son Donna and Charlie. Granahan didn’t have much chemistry with Boughton and seemed to have a different acting style compared to the rest of the ensemble. Olson gave a youthful excitement to Charlie. Alexandra Cremer as the mysterious and devious Agent Pullman had a Jane Curtin-esque intrigue, holding back until a big plot twist.
Director Eric Chase took a giant script and did everything possible to simplify it due to limitations. Chase had some brilliant moments in staging where the two time periods existed simultaneously. But due to the limitations of the set and lighting capabilities, all of the pieces lived in all the worlds taking away from the time travel aspect. It was a smart choice to keep the momentum consistent and slamming into each scene, but maybe a slightly mobile set would have been a dynamic addition. The sound design by Justin Plowman fit the world brilliantly. From the soundtrack of the 80s that brings you into the start of the play to the insanely important sound effects with the time machine, Plowman’s work was a huge factor into keeping the piece together.
There’s something special about Making History. With a little bit of tightening and a cleaner vision, Making History could be a fun sci-fi piece. But without the magic of theater, Dysfunctional Theatre Company’s Making History doesn’t quite theatrical make history.