Thursday, March 22, 2018

Review of About Face Theatre's Time is on Our Side

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Time is on Our Side. It was by R. Eric Thomas and it was directed by Megan Carney. It was about two friends, Curtis (Rashaad Hall) and Annie (Maggie Scrantom), who have a history podcast together in Philadelphia. They have a monthly reenactment radio play where they hire their friends Rene (Esteban Andres Cruz) and Claudia (Riley Mondragon) to act in it. Claudia found this diary in a secret compartment in one of Annie's chests that used to belong to her grandmother. And Curtis wants to find out more about Annie's grandmother, but Annie doesn't want him to do that; she doesn't think he has the right. It is about inheritance, boundaries in friendship, and learning the truth about people that you love. This was a mystery, but not a murder mystery. It was about discovering and diving deeper into family secrets.

Mr. Blankenship (Cruz) and Mr. Ramondi (Mondragon) were two of the most memorable characters in the show. They are neighbors and they had been friends with Annie's grandparents Gisella (Mondragon) and Lawrence (Cruz) and are talking with her about them. Mr. Ramondi is very welcoming, shiny, and loud and just seems like a very fun person to hang out with. His neighbor across the way, Mr. Blankenship, is just about the opposite of that. He is begrudging, grumpy, and obsessed with Jeopardy! But you love him anyway. Mr. Ramondi embraces the past and the new times, and celebrates how much things have improved. Mr. Blankenship gets angry at people who want to know about the old times because they have it so much better now. It is hard for him to go through again because he has lost a lot of people that were close to him during that time. Cruz and Mondragon also both had really lovely portrayals of Annie's grandparents. They had a very sweet scene at the end of the play, which I won't give away, but it was really meaningful and bittersweet. I have a theory that maybe all of the scenes with the grandparents, and when Annie and Curtis were interviewing the older people, that might have been part of their podcast's monthly reenactment. So, Rene and Claudia were actually playing the roles of the grandparents and Mr. Blankenship and Mr. Ramondi. I think that would be really cool if that idea was planted purposefully in the show.

There were a lot of funny moments in this show. Claudia had a very welcoming personality and is friends with everyone. As Curtis said, she is a "celesbian," which I think is the best phrase ever. It comes up multiple times, and I think it is hilarious that everyone's heard this term that Annie has not. Curtis also had this wall of his house that he put all his theories about Annie's grandmother's secret life. It was insanely intricate and covered up the entire wall. It looked like a murder board on a crime show. He compared himself to Olivia Pope, and people keep shutting him down on that comparison. Rene even compares him to a totally obsessed serial killer--except that he forgot the yarn that would complete the look. I thought both those comparison were hilarious. Whenever Annie would not get a pop culture reference, Curtis would say that she would be terrible at Celebrity Jeopardy!. And she would say something along the lines of, "I don't think that's how that works." But people just kept bringing it up as if Celebrity Jeopardy! was trivia about celebrities instead of celebrities on Jeopardy! Even Mr. Blankenship makes this mistake even though his obsession is Jeopardy! I thought that was really funny.

I think the relationship between Annie and Curtis started out as a really beautiful, happy, and healthy friendship. But once they discovered the diary, they get drawn further apart because Curtis wants to find out more about Annie's grandmother, but Annie doesn't want him to because she feels like it isn't his story. But Curtis feels like it should be a story for the entire LGBTQ+ community. So he starts investigating without her consent, which I think is a very tough topic because I feel like consent is key even in friendships and you need to make sure you both are happy and getting what you need. But I also think that Annie's grandmother's story should be out there for people who are struggling to be themselves. It is hard because Annie doesn't feel like Curtis has the right to investigate the story, so it is not consent. But I'm not sure that Annie has the right approach to this topic or the ownership of the story. I feel like the playwright was trying to make you see the threat to their friendship but want to figure out a way that the story can get told where Annie doesn't feel betrayed. The play becomes mostly about how Curtis is trying to find a way to tell the story and get consent so he can save his friendship.

People who would like this show are people who like Jeopardy! obsessions, murder boards, and celesbians. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I thought the story was really intriguing and all the performances were great!

Photos: Michael Brosilow

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