"Time's Scream and Hurry."
Written and directed by Paul Hoan Zeidler at the New York International Fringe Festival.
The Studio at Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce St., NYC.
Aug. 15-29 2009. (CLOSED)
Decades ago, Meatloaf had a hit in which a guy tries to con his girl by telling her two out of three ain't bad ("I want you, I need you, but I'm never gonna love you, now don't be sad 'cause two out of three ain't bad!"). Playwright/director Paul Hoan Zeidler might say the same about his new Fringe production "Time's Scream and Hurry." The three monologues have an uneven quality. The first two have their compelling moments and end with a bang, but the third whimpers and weeps and sinks like a lead weight. If you leave at intermission, "Time's Scream and Hurry" is a piquant Fringe production.
Zeidler has a gift for story-telling, and he has assembled gifted performers who know their way around a narrative. They easily shift tone, perspective, narrative flow, even sympathy. The problem lies in the sentimentality of the pieces. In the first act, "So-So's Sister," the slight, energetic Carlita Penaherrera, who played the lead in "Agnes of God" in Los Angeles, makes all the elements work. The secret is in the surprises and the exceptionally sharp phrasing. One disaster after another strike the two sisters, one of whom is handicapped, but they survive. At one point, So-So's teenage sister believes that her life has finally found her – even though she must leave school and take on onerous responsibilities. But then another disaster strikes. And again, although the problem seems almost insurmountable, she turns it around; she squeezes her lemons into lemonade with the help of a few fabrications and a forgery. So-So's sister has pluck and vision – like the performer. She deserves better, yet she finds something in less than nothing.
"Match Girl," the second monologue by the beautiful and very talented J.J. Pyle, is fresh and commanding. It's a winner from start to finish. The Match Girl is damaged, but in ways that increase her sex appeal. She has, as the title implies, fallen in love with fire. It helps her cope; it figures in erotic games she plays with herself. She trains as a professional and becomes adept at her job. When her career takes an unexpected swing, she discovers other aspects of her personality that are both lucrative and intriguing, but the new life makes demands. She dumps the solid boyfriend, believing he won't fit in. She makes new, increasingly bizarre friends. She rakes in wealth. She does unspeakable things to other people. And all the while she longs for the man she discarded – only to discover she can't have him back. In the hands of a lesser actor or writer, this monologue would be unbelievable, but every word and gesture seems true. We step with Match Girl into a glamorous underworld of fantasy and desire.
"The Good Boyfriend," the third monologue, reads like a case study in a psychology paper. The overly long monologue suffers from a paucity of drama and an excess of sentimentality, which are hard to process. Although the uneven and often uneasy performance by Charles Pacello avoids self-pity, it seems the only reason to share his story. The monologue might fly outside of New York, where unnecessary empathy is taken at face value. Maybe New York is too cynical – and far more demanding of its artists.