The Scream of Time

Time’s Scream and Hurry, written and directed by Paul Hoan Zeidler and presented as part of this summer’s FringeNYC Festival, is made up of three vignettes unrelated except for the fact that they are about the darker sides of life, including abuse, crime, and sexual perversion. Although the piece succeeds in shocking its spectators, it does little else. It is difficult to understand what the deeper point or larger meaning behind any of these disturbing tales is. All three episodes are presented as solo pieces – monologues giving the audience one perspective, one view of a very complex, very unpleasant occurrence. Because of this single point of view structure, all of the stories feel one-sided, as though there was vital information that the viewers are missing. Each story involves other characters not presented here, and the character we do see does not do enough to make us understand that, while there are other points of view at work, his or her vision is the one with which we should side. Rather, we are forced to side with them because we hear from no one else.

The first piece, “So-So’s Sister,” deals with a young woman with an abusive, gambler father and a mentally disabled sister, and how she negotiates this family structure in light of her first relationship. Although decently performed, the monologue seems empty; it is hard to know what we are supposed to learn or gain from having heard this terrible tale.

“Match Girl,” the next piece – a presentation of one woman’s development from a victim of childhood teasing, which caused her to burn herself, to adult dominatrix – is a strange and uncomfortable one. This woman does not appear sympathetic, yet it is easy to pity her because of the way she presents herself. She seems to be someone in need of help – and someone whom we would want to help – who consistently gets in her own way. The monologue is well-performed with both funny and heart-wrenching moments, but again, the overall meaning and therefore effect is vague at best.

“The Good Boyfriend” is the strongest of the three and is last on the bill; it is also perhaps unnecessarily long. A man tells of his romance with a rape victim. The piece has moments of poignancy and depth, and it is easy to feel something for this man who is attempting to do the right thing and the woman for whom he is making such sacrifices. However, these compelling moments are often overshadowed by graphic and shocking descriptions that do little to add to the story – the suggestion of what has happened is jarring enough.

Is shocking an audience, pushing them to the brink of what they can stand to hear about, justification enough for a play? Perhaps, but it would make for even more interesting drama if there were a common throughline or overarching thematic idea for the audience to grasp. Time’s Scream and Hurry is filled with tales that a spectator will not soon forget, but unfortunately, they also will not know what to do with what they have heard.

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