Home in Time is a neatly written script that is done a decent service by its performers although the production lacks solid direction.
Martha works in her sister Mary’s café, and as they prepare to close up one night Martha encounters a stranger with an unusual proposition. Fred has in his possession the Book of Everything, which contains every fact ever known and is the fastest way to get to know yourself completely (the Book apparently includes entries on every person ever, which isn’t terrifying if you don’t think about it). The catch is that if Martha accepts the book, she must live outside of time until she decides to pass it on and take the place of whoever’s next – meaning that once she accepts the book, she’s effectively never existed and her old life is gone forever.
The script, by Sterling Lynch, won 1st place in Ottawa Little Theatre’s national one-act playwriting competition in 2010, and it’s not hard to see why – it’s well structured with all loose ends nicely tied up, and the premise, though a little bit out there, is explained effectively through Fred’s character. The text isn’t perfect, despite its pedigree – it’s fairly clear about halfway through Martha’s interaction with Fred whether or not she’s going to accept the book, and the existential nature of the premise is unnecessarily augmented by the increasingly pretentious and obviously allusive books that Martha notices Fred going through alongside the all-important Book (we start out with Thus Spoke Zarathustra and end up with – I’m not kidding – Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. You know, the kind of books people read in coffee shops so that people will think they’re free, intellectual thinkers). Still, the strengths of this script far outweigh its weaknesses. All in all, it’s highly reminiscent of classic episodes of The Twilight Zone.
The production of this text has more issues, namely a lack of inspired directing. Caitlin Corbett’s Martha is clearly confused when time starts to repeat itself near the beginning, but rather than grounding the character physically by keeping her in one place and letting the confusion register on her face, she walks around. Likewise Elizabeth Leah Chant and Jesse Lalonde also have good instincts that could have been drawn out more by director Wayne Current. Lalonde plays Fred as friendly and harmless, though perhaps an hint of malevolence or awkwardness would make Martha’s choice seem a bit riskier. Chant doesn’t have much to work with character-wise for Mary, but because the character has to keep reliving the same moment several times over without realizing it, there’s more of an endurance element to playing the character. Rather than building a psychologically complete character, the main challenge here is being able to make the same choices over again in the space of a few minutes while making it seem spontaneous every time. It’s an unusual challenge for an actor and one that definitely could be helped by a director who drives that need for spontaneity home. As it is, Chant keeps things subtle every time – a touch more energy at the start of each repetition might be helpful in establishing the well-patterned chronological loop that arises in the first third of the play. One other unusual choice is that Corbett and Chant alternate as Martha and Mary each performance, which seems pointless but is at least a good exercise for the actors.
Home in Time is an introduction to a nicely-written script, and although it may not be the strongest production, it’s on the right track.
Home in Time
A Current Production
Written by Sterling Lynch
Directed by Wayne Current
Stage Management by Carrie Milks
Performed by Elizabeth Leah Chant, Caitlin Corbett, and Jesse Lalonde