Friday, May 13, 2016

Review: A History of Regrets

by Michael Block

Life is a series of sacrifices. And when it comes to love, sometimes the heart takes over for the brain. In Sevan K. Green's This Time presented by Rising Circle Theater Collective, one woman's choice of love over family has a series of life-long repercussions.
Playing the intriguing black box at the Sheen Center, This Time follows Amal as she seeks refuge at her slightly bitter daughter's home after an injury.  Old wounds are reopened as Amal and Janine are opposing forces in regards to Amal’s decision to pick a suave foreigner and leaving her family behind in Egypt many years ago. Inspired by stories from the book “Not So Long Ago” by Amal Meguid, Greene's story is one of love, family, regret, and history repeating itself. The trouble with This Time though is the content. Finding the answer to "what about this story is important at this time" is quite hard. And that may simply be due to how Greene structures the play. You have to wonder is this the best way to share this story. Greene’s piece is told through two stories that bounce back and forth with little rhyme or reason. The trouble is that it’s never truly established as a memory play or as the past haunting. Amal doesn’t recall Younger Amal. She just appears. There are moments where director Kareem Fahmy seems to play with memory but if that were the case, it needed to be established at the start. The other trouble with this current format is that it lacks dramatic tension. Since we flip flop timelines with pretty long and hefty scenes, it takes time to harken back to the pair’s previous scenes. While it may not be as captivating a sell, perhaps changing the structure of Act I to stay in the past and Act II in the present where perhaps Younger Amal then plays Janine could be interesting. The other trouble is the dramaturgical reasons why Younger Amal and Nick meander around Jenine’s house as if they had been there before. While it may not be exact to the source material, had this been Younger Alma and Nick’s house previously, then it could make sense. The characters didn’t feel like they were completely fulfilled in this format. Their journeys felt unnatural. And then there were those random moments that didn’t add anything to the character arc. The strongest being the random scene with Janine’s young lover. While it likely was supposed to be a parallel moment to her mother’s younger days, all it did was add to the sappy romance. By adapting for the stage, it’s likely many moments had to be cut but not all that remained served the overall production.
photo by Al Foote III
The quintet of This Time did a fine job lifting the words from the page and transporting them to the stage. By far, the winning duo was Rendah Heywood as Younger Amal and Seth Moore as Nick. Heywood radiates elegance. Moore is incredibly suave. Together, they personify the golden age of Hollywood beauty. Delphi Harrington as Amal was sadly exasperating and never quite found her footing.
Without a doubt, This Time was visually stunning. The set by David Esler was smart. Between the simplicity and the old money furniture, it all worked. It’s so strong that you almost forgive the dual stories that use the present set. Esler’s design worked wonders alongside Scott Bolman’s lighting. Bolman offered a world of wonders with his various moods and looks, though there were some unfortunate shadows. Rather than adding walls to the set, Esler utilized fabric allowing the locational projections and the wallpaper to come to life. Creating a beautiful stage picture was director Kareem Fahmy’s strongest feat. When it came to working with his company, Fahmy fell short. While the scenes smartly melted from scene to scene, the overall pacing was immeasurably slow.
This Time is a romance for soap opera lovers. There was something deep within Sevan K. Greene’s but it still needs to be pulled out. It’s a text to keep an eye on in the future. But for now, it didn’t hit the mark.