We Are Now Entering The Theatre Time Zone (Bring Earplugs And A Blanket)

Why does time so often play tricks on us when we go to the theatre? Why do plays rarely feel the length that they actually are — even ones that claim a unity of time, place and action?

I asked myself these questions as I left the Magic Theatre last night after opening night of Anna Ziegler’s perfunctory-schmaltzy new play set in a kids’ camp in Maine, Another Way Home.

The drama, in which an American, upper middle-class family’s testy relationships with each another come to a head when the teenage son, Joey, runs away from his job as a volunteer counselor at a kids’ camp in the woods of Maine following a sparring match with his visiting parents,  is heavily preoccupied with the concertina effect of time.

Ziegler explores how we seemingly have no control over the way in which time has this habit, on occasions, of stretching out endlessly long, and on other occasions, appearing to squish so tightly that 30 years seem to go by in a flash.

Disappointingly, the play doesn’t really tell us anything new about this truism of human existence.

What was palpable to me, however, was that despite Meredith McDonagh’s tight direction and some muscular, sensitive performances from the small ensemble cast (Mark Pinter’s explosion of temper during a pivotal scene in his role as the family patriarch, Philip, was scarily engrossing) Ziegler’s short, 80-minute play felt much longer than 80-minutes to to me.


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  1. says

    Good dialog and effective theatricality are qualities that define a good play, but the art of signifying the passage of time is the essence of the playwright’s work. It is this rare mastery of time that allows an epic to be portrayed on stage. And even in a play portraying real time, it is the mastery of rhythm, of tension and release, of climaxes and breath, of structure and architecture, the long span of the psychological arch that most strongly show who the great playwright is. In reality play writing is a musical art. And great composing is contained in the craft of drama. They are sister arts. As usual, thanks for the interesting thoughts.