Sarah Grimke works in performance of all types in the Philadelphia region. They’ve been on stage, backstage, and in the office for years now.

Lawrence is a queer feminist playwright who only contains multitudes on Wednesdays.

Goldie is a dramaturg and director who loves socially conscious and feminist work.

Goldie

What show did you guys see? I saw a preview.

Lawrence

I did, too, but not the one you saw.

Sarah

I was there opening night.

Goldie

What was in your pockets?

Sarah

I know a number of people involved and have worked with some of them. I wanted to like this show going in.

Goldie

I was really nervous to see this, because I saw the reading and I really didn’t like it. And I want R. Eric Thomas to succeed because I’m a fan of his writing and storytelling. So I was expecting to be disappointed.

Lawrence

I also knew most of the cast and the playwright and a lot of the design team.  I was aware that I was probably going to like the show because there are lesbians and I’m biased.  It’s a problem that I’m dealing with.
I had also seen the earlier reading of the play so I knew the general plot and some ideas of what I thought were earlier strengths and weaknesses. I had liked the reading, but I thought it was too self indulgent even if the bones were good. What didn’t you like about the reading?

Goldie

I agree that it was self indulgent and didn’t have enough action- a lot of banter and musing and sort of stand up style presentation. In the reading, I also felt like Annie was not fleshed out. She seemed like a “best friend” character for Curtis, who also spoke with his rhythm and style. Both of those issues were mostly gone in this version of the script though. Shout out to dramaturg Sarah Totora and to R. Eric Thomas. This script really came a long way. It’s obvious that hard work went into that.

Lawrence

I talking with Kristen Norine (the actress playing Annie) before seeing it, she talked about how she felt the play was very Chekovian and I kept that in mind when seeing the show and found that shaped a lot of how I saw it. I thought it was a smart way of looking at the play

Goldie

I know Kristen, too and I am a huge fan of hers, as well as of Ryan Walter.

Lawrence

Yes, huge huge fan of Kristen.  I’m also super excited by Brandi Burgess’s work.

Goldie

I guess we’re starting with acting. Kristen Norine is so reliable. She is so specific.

Lawrence

I had never seen this side of her and I found it incredibly exciting. I felt like she was pulling from a depth that I knew she had, but I hadn’t seen really showcased yet, and I was thrilled.

Goldie

I agree. And that really drove the story. She was compelling, and reserved and deeply sympathetic.

Lawrence

She found a way to settle in a really passive objective and make that work. A lesser actor could have totally bombed with that.

Goldie

Did it bother you that a straight actress played Annie?

Lawrence

No. This was a story about history and how personal history is and how that gets complicated and muddy all the time.  It was queer history, but it could have easily been anything else.  The actors were smart, respectful  and devoted to that story and their own personal sexuality doesn’t really have anything to do with it

Goldie

What did you think about Carl Clemons-Hawkins?

Lawrence

This was the first time seeing Carl and Ryan Walter and I really liked them. Carl felt so settled in a really complicated character and made him so relatable.

Goldie

That’s a good point. The character is not very likable, but he really was. The fact that I continued to empathize, even though I thought the character was behaving terribly is a credit to his work.

Lawrence

And it made him feel really truthful. Also he was hecka funny.  Hats off to the comedic timing of the whole cast.

Goldie

Really funny people. Really serious comedy people. So you liked Brandi Burgess?

Lawrence

I’ve worked with her before and I’ve been consistently impressed by how much I care about her characters and the work she’s doing and how effortless it looks.  I don’t notice her working.

Goldie

I had never seen her before this show, and I’m equally impressed. I think she is really respectful of the characters, which can be hard when you’re doing a series of character parts like that. But she just disappeared into each one.

Lawrence

She absolutely did. Someone like Mr. Ramondi could have just been a joke, but she made something real there

Goldie

She did, and that was really a challenge. Somehow she never lost the person in that character. I was so impressed by the very slight accent of Gisela. It was such a delicate thing and so specific. I have always found Ryan Walter to be a really compelling, gifted actor, no different here.

Lawrence

I felt like he had more meat with the Lawrence and Mr. Blankenship characters and I really connected with them. His line “With him I am” really hit me.

Goldie

Yes, that’s true. I think the Blankenship was masterful. And I think Renee was written over the top and he met it without aping.

Lawrence

I cared about that character even though I felt like he didn’t want me to care and I thought that was interesting.

Goldie

The cruising bit was very sweet. And really moving. Do you want to talk about design?

Lawrence

Christopher Haig’s set was bold.

Goldie

It was and I think that was necessary. A naturalistic set would not have held the play correctly.

Lawrence

I agree.  I think having been to the earlier reading hurt me here, because I already had ideas of the set in my head, but I could get past that and really dig this set.

Sarah

I loved the set! It looked different from what I normally see and was really not-distracting, but served a lot of purposes. This show has a million settings, and the set allowed for that.

Goldie

To be honest, I didn’t like it when I saw pictures in promotional stuff, but when I saw the play in it, I liked it. It evoked piles of stuff in an attic. Also, like the history that they are contending with, the set loomed over the players (even the grandparents) at all times.

Lawrence

Yes, and I loved how actors could use it to create the scenes. I love when sets can do that.

Sarah

Props (Scott McMaster) were simple and appropriate. Evocative without being in the way.

Goldie

And I was really brought in by the presence of the Philly historical marker in the center. This play was so Philly in such a wonderful way. It was like a handmade gift for the city.

Lawrence

I wonder what it would be like in another city? I found the sound design from Elizabeth Atkinson really interesting. I liked its use of echoes, but I wanted more diversity in what we heard. I saw a preview, though, so they may have added more.

Goldie

I saw a preview, too. But I liked Atkinson’s sound design. Maybe because I love podcasts and it was very evocative of that.

Sarah

My only design critique would be the lighting from Alyssandra Docherty. It was good overall, but it underutilized the neutral set in my opinion.The lights didn’t help to define space as well as I would have liked. But that might have been a resources problem.

Goldie

I really like what she did with the lights– the way that they made ghosts out of the grandparents on this ghost colored set. And the burst of green and leaves gobo that came on at the beginning of the park scenes and then just disappeared did its job subtly. I love when lighting designers don’t rely on darkness.  

Lawrence

And don’t rely on pops or effects. The practicals were so nicely done and not distracting. I didn’t notice the lighting too much, which I thought meant it was doing exactly the right thing for this show. Also, I’m so excited for a new female lighting designer in town.

Goldie

Hooray! I thought Levonne Lindsay’s costumes were also solid. If you ever see R. Eric Thomas walking around the city, Carl was basically cosplaying him, which I found hilarious and delightful.

Lawrence

I loved Annie’s shark tooth necklace. It was such a weird element that made me think about her character and a costume design hasn’t done that for me in so long.

Goldie

Her costumes were great, she looked comfortable in them. The only one I didn’t love was the halftan. I think it gave Ryan Walter a challenge in having to compete with that costume. It was a challenge that he met but it was a little distracting. It was what the script called for, though. .

Lawrence

I wasn’t bothered by it, but I wanted more from Gisela’s costume, I felt like it didn’t give me anything about her character.

Goldie

I liked hers because of the way it interacted with the lights and set. She seemed like she’d just walked out of the wall.

Lawrence

Romandi was so good.

Goldie

I also liked Blankenship, the way he was wearing a tie alone at home to watch TV. Neatly pressed. That’s a specific kind of older person.

Lawrence

I think it says a lot about a person who dresses up for solitude.

Goldie

Yes! Good way to say that! So as a cohesive unit all of this stuff was well done. But I think what I love about all the elements most is that they felt like they were done with love.

Lawrence

Yeah, there was a lot of care with this production

Goldie

My least favorite kind of shows are those that are cold or indifferent. This one seemed to just want to hug everyone.

Goldie

I walked into the play feeling really shitty, because I had just been talking with a girlfriend about Stanford, and we were feeling really hopeless. And then I walked into this space that wasn’t for, about or in reaction straight white men.  And it was so, so soothing and restorative. So as a straight, cis person, I experienced this as extremely comforting and welcoming. What was lit like to watch it as a gay person?

Lawrence

I felt like it was a gay fantasy (but absolutely not in the sense that it’s not real or achievable or hasn’t happened) because it was exactly the kind of play that I wanted to see.  It wasn’t about people failing to find happiness and it could so easily have been. Not that anything, for any of them, was perfect, but it wasn’t failure or misery. There were lovely places that all of those characters could go. I loved that the storyline between Annie and Claudia was a possibility. I think that a lesser playwright would have succumbed to the very tempting option of putting them together or breaking them up and instead it wasn’t about that, it was about them really seeing each other and that was all we needed. I found that so moving and inspiring as a playwright as well as an audience member. We just never see a pre-relationship like that and it was so great.

Goldie

This feels like a new generation of LGBTQ play. I feel like most gay plays are about cruel parents or AIDS

Lawrence

And that’s great, but there’s more to the gay experience.

Goldie

I was really moved.

Lawrence

I don’t cry and I had like some mist going on.

Goldie

Oh I was all out crying. Snot and all.

Sarah

To me, the show felt a little less moving than the reading I saw. guess I felt like the stakes weren’t there.

Goldie

Oh that is the total opposite of what it was like at the performance I saw!

Sarah

Maybe there was some opening night acting going on. It felt very “here’s a joke!” ***pause*** Not all the time, but for parts of it.

Lawrence

Yeah, they might still be learning where the laughs are. There was a very small house at the preview I saw, I felt like they were just listening to each other.

Goldie

Me too, they were very with each other.

Sarah

I also found Annie’s character less interesting this time.

Goldie

Oh I liked Annie much MORE than in the reading.

Lawrence

I think because I went into it thinking of it as Chekhovian, I expected that there was going to be more talking than action and found action in that, so I found the stakes really exciting.

Sarah

I know that a lot of cuts were made, and it definitely needed it, but I guess I lost the sense of their friendship at some point.

Lawrence

Interesting, I felt their friendship had so much more depth. There was so much that had happened before the play that just existed without needing exposition. I thought that was really well done.

Sarah

Maybe it was just the performance I saw. Openings are hard. There’s so much beyond the play happening. It definitely wasn’t all off. Just the main relationship felt really distant right at the top. I wasn’t sure if they were best friends or just people who sort of work together.

Goldie

When he got up and took a wine class out of her cabinet, that felt like the information I needed. That was a really succinct way to make the relationship clear.

Sarah

Opening night, he dropped the wine glass and said “oh Jesus,” which was amazing.Honestly that relationship wasn’t the most important part of the show for me. I love the heart of this piece.

Lawrence

Oh! On my night Kristen had a coughing fit and drank all of Carl’s wine and then he got her more and then Brandi entered with a water bottle for her. It was terrifying and amazing.

Sarah

I love that seeing the same show on different nights can lead to such different opinions!

Lawrence

Yay live theater!

Goldie

I think that’s kind of what we were talking about before. These actors are both professional and generous. They are in the moment and ready for what’s happening, including taking care of each other.

Lawrence

It was a hug show. I love hug shows.

Sarah

How about Jarrod Markman’s direction?

Lawrence

I thought it was appropriately restrained, and that was really good. This play could so easily have gottenout of control, and it didn’t. It sat when it needed to sit.

Goldie

Yes. I couldn’t agree more.  I think it took a deft hand to keep this all in line, and Jarrod Markman did a fantastic job and did it invisibly, which is ideal.

Goldie

I think he knew just where and how much to use devices like the stylized movement, which was really well choreographed by Amy Smith from Headlong.

Lawrence

I really liked the movement and I usually don’t. I also loved the transitions.  So so good.  Dramaturgically relevant.  Made me so happy.

Goldie

What did you guys think of the story?

Sarah

I totally appreciate what Lawrence was saying about it being a show about a different part of the queer story. AIDS touches it, and family rejection touches it, but it was really a story about finding your community and your family and your truth in all of these complex ways. I also loved the idea of queering history and queering theatre. All of the characters were LGBTQ, ALL OF THEM! But that wasn’t their defining characteristic, which I really appreciated.

Goldie

Yeah, and I really love the way he worked in the AIDS quilt, Mary the Hat, the William Way Center. Very respectful of the history.

Lawrence

I loved how everyone made bad choices and I still really liked them. I definitely wanted to know more about Claudia’s character. She felt kind of shallow, but I wanted to know more, so that’s good. I cared a lot about her even not knowing that much.

Sarah

Me too. I await the sequel.

Lawrence

Yes sequel!!!

Goldie

It was a cool character. I like that it left me wondering what a relationship between them would be like.

Lawrence

Yes, that’s why the pre-relationship was so good.

Goldie

I see what you’re saying. It would have been such a cop out to end it with them getting together.

Lawrence

Exactly.

Sarah

I hate that we focus so many stories on the goal being romantic love. Romantic love is not the only kind of love, nor is it some sort of necessary life goal.

Lawrence

And it made me like Claudia more to see her recognize that she was into this person who wasn’t looking for a romantic thing, she was looking for a friend, and to be that for her.

Goldie

I loved the way Brandi played the crush.

Lawrence

Yes, the unspoken moments were so well done.

Goldie

Maybe it shouldn’t have worked as a device for letting Annie do a lot of exposition. But it did.

Lawrence

And when that shit doesn’t work onstage it’s so painful.

Goldie

It worked because Brandi was so active. You could see Claudia struggling to listen to her and not gaze at this crush.  

Lawrence

And you could see her thinking “want me” without demanding it.

Sarah

I think it was great because listening is something a good friend does, and Annie wasn’t getting enough of that, so the audience and Claudia became the friend.

Goldie

Kristen also really made Fatima real.

Lawrence

Yeah, she was such a good offstage character.

Sarah

So real. I feel like I knew exactly where they were in that break-up too. And you knew Fatima did the breaking up.

Sarah

And so much of that was just acting and the sound design elements in between scenes.

Goldie

I think that R. Eric Thomas was really thoughtful about being inclusive without resorting to tokenism. I appreciated that she was Fatima and not Becky. The play makes  a joke about being like a Benneton ad, but I found the production to be joyfully inclusive I also want to give points to this production for seeking out a Vietnamese American actor to do the Cahn Nguyen voice over

Sarah

Who was it?

Goldie

It was Lucas Nguyen. And he did a great job.

Sarah

In general, I think they did a great job being true to the script with casting.

Lawrence

I’m pretty sure that part was written for Kristen

Sarah

She’s so good, why isn’t she in everything?

Goldie

Amen. I think Carl Clemens-Hopkins was a much better fit for Curtis than James Ijames, who did it in the reading had been. James seemed uncomfortable in it

Lawrence

Carl was relaxed and James was anxious.
I knew Curtis was having marriage troubles without that even really stated. That was very impressive.

Sarah

Yes. That one line about the podcast being a distraction for him so he wouldn’t decorate the apartment was so telling.

Lawrence

Such good use of details.

Goldie

I think the moment where she makes him say that he’s not Olivia Pope is a perfect instance of Eric’s wit shining in a different context.

Sarah

That play was funny! But I did feel like it had too many specific pop culture references. Will it hold up? Some of them also threw me out in a weird way. I saw some people definitely not getting the references, but those were old white people… so I guess they’ve gotten every play ever basically, and they can miss this one. But I love so much in this play, I just don’t want it to only live for 5 years.

Lawrence

I thought it was interesting how the references were as multi-generational as everything else in the play

Goldie

Yes, that was another point of inclusivity.

Lawrence

Romandi brought in so many older references and the play poked fun at itself for how many obscure ones it had. It is dating itself, but there’s a way to dramaturg that so the characters let us into the world even if some of the references are lost.  And I would pay money to watch Brandi as Romandi do Steel Magnolias.

Sarah

I hope it gets more productions.

Goldie

Me, too. But there’s something very special about this production. It was a solid play, and a great experience.

Lawrence

This play was a good one.

Goldie

And it feels important. This is the kind of work I want to see so much more of. Inclusive, fearless, professional, loving, humble.

Lawrence

Generous and respectful of its story without being condescending to its audience.

Goldie

So inviting to the audience. And also these are the kind of stories I want to see.

Lawrence

Tell more of the untold.

Goldie

This makes me think of inclusivity as an idea versus “diversity.” It isn’t that it was a play with gay characters. What am I trying to say?

Lawrence

They got to be people.

Goldie

That’s it. And even though that was in no way my story. I felt very included.

Lawrence

It was my story and that was so special. I’ve noticed how I’ve stopped looking for me on stage and that makes me sad.

And to see me was really….. yeah

Goldie

I think it says something great about this production that it got both of us in different ways

Lawrence

It really does.

Goldie

This is the kind of show where…this is why you go to eight thousand crumby ones.

Lawrence

This show is why you go to all the bad ones. So you get to go to this one.

 

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2 thoughts on “Time is on Our Side-Simpatico

  1. Reblogged this on R. Eric Thomas and commented:
    The most amazing thing about the truly astounding process of bringing this play to life has been the opportunity to engage with people in conversation about characters and circumstances that I care deeply about. I’m so grateful for all of the comments and positive reviews that Time Is On Our Side has gotten, but this conversation critique is especially moving. At the end of the day, I just want to make art that sparks conversations, that touches people, that resonates. I’m so very thankful to the people behind this blog for taking the time to engage with the play on an emotional, artistic and intellectual level.

    Like

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