note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Beverly Creasey
The notion of time --- going backward in it, stopping it --- seems to fascinate poets and playwrights. (Take “Time and the Conways” for example…or “Brigadoon” …or Auden’s magnificent “Stop All the Clocks.”) Now it has tempted Vladimir Zelevinsky to write a Faustian fable for the Theatre Coop in Somerville called WHAT TIME IS IT? Zelevinsky’s loopy morality tale (and I’m not exactly sure what the moral is) takes a 16th century German town on a wild journey when time is wrenched out of joint by a selfish clock keeper. He starts by stopping the giant mechanism in the clock tower (to prevent a marriage) and ends up by blotting out the sun, rather like the anti-Candide, bringing about the worst of all possible worlds.
Zelevinsky’s characters are quirky and colorful, and fun to watch but the story takes its sweet time, as it were, meandering all over the place. It’s a bit difficult to follow Zelevinsky’s tangents and then refocus on the central character. Michael Avellar portrays the clock keeper with a touch of the maniacal, as if he can’t stop the mayhem even if he wanted to.
His polar opposite is Jason Myatt as the kind, but myopic fellow who gets the girl. Myatt grounds the character by magically lowering his center of gravity. He’s certainly not as quick as the clock keeper but slow and steady wins the girl. Stacy Fischer is lovely as the young woman who wisely chooses Myatt over the mercurial time stopper. (If this were the Old West, he’d be a sidewinder. Sorry.) Their kiss, bathed in Amy Lee’s golden light, ends the first act.
Lesley Chapman directs with an eye for the unusual, and an ear for the music of laughter. Speaking of music, Kim Anton Myatt and Peter Brown capture the feel of a duet, their timing is so perfectly synchronized as the unfeeling bourgeoisie. Lida McGirr gets lots of comic “time” as the headstrong egg peddler. Doc Madison’s set is so versatile and ingenious that the stairs get a laugh, when we hear the labored footsteps of the approaching egg lady. If only Chapman and company could cut the running time a smidgen.