Old Red Lion Theatre February 2002
How do you write about the ordinariness of everyday life without sacrificing drama? How do you make the point that it is the boring everyday details of life that are precious without filling your play with boring everyday details?
Chekhov created masterpieces out of the first challenge, and Thornton Wilder accomplished the second in Our Town sixty years ago. But a similar ambition has foiled young playwright Lance Nielsen in this short fringe play.
Nielsen depicts three thirty-somethings who consider themselves best friends, though their cluttered lives only allow them to get together in the same room every few years.
When they do meet, they spend their time bemoaning the fact that they don't see each other more often, and complaining about their jobs, families, love lives or lack of same, and all the other mundane things mundane people talk about.
The play opens with one funeral, and eventually a second one, along with a bit of doggerel verse, brings home the realisation that it is exactly such trivia, along with friendship, that makes up our lives, and that we should therefore make more time in our lives to treasure what is of value.
A few passing comments suggest that the contemporary technology of cellphones and e-mails has contributed to the breakdown in human connection. But the play never really convinces us that the trio have that much bonding them beyond having grown up together and all being rather boring human beings.
And here's where Nielsen is defeated by the central challenges of this subject. He has clearly chosen to make his characters ordinary to the extent of being dull, in order to make his point that everyday life is precious.
But without Chekhov's genius for illuminating the life-shaking drama in small events or Wilder's ability to invest the mundane with a sense of its special value, he can only leave us to spend an hour in the company of three uninteresting characters doing nothing.
Directed by the author, who also co-produces, the play is being performed by alternating all-male and all-female casts, to underline its universality.
The male trio - Ray Bullock Jnr, Alex Heaton and Mo Nazam - share the author/director's central failure in that they effectively portray the personality-free losers without evoking any real sense of the bond that holds them together or of a capacity for the enriched appreciation of life that the play hopes to evoke.
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Review of Making Time - Old Red Lion Theatre 2002