Off-Off-Broadway Review: THE WHOLE OF TIME (Torn Page)

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by Gregory Fletcher on January 7, 2024

in Theater-New York


Joben Productions presents The Whole of Time by Romina Paula, an Argentinean playwright and multidisciplinary artist. The play was translated by Jean Graham-Jones, a scholar of Argentine theatre and performance, and directed by Tony Torn with a downtown, raw, intimate approach.

Part of the fun of attending this 70-minute performance is getting to visit the Chelsea family home of Tony Torn’s parents — actors Rip Torn and Geraldine Page. The house manager greets you at the front stoop of the Torn Page townhouse, and, after hanging up coats in the foyer, you climb a curving wooden staircase to an interior room that offers a bar with specialty drinks. The bartender ends up being a character in the play (Maximiliano, played by Ben Becher). The adjacent front room has two rows of seats — 22 in all — facing the rectangular living room with two side painted backdrops by Donald Gallagher, a Radical Faerie and a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence. It’s a fun artsy space with Latin music playing and a projection of Frida Kahlo over the brass covered fireplace.

Inspired by Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, the play begins with Antonia and Lorenzo (the play’s siblings whom Williams calls Laura and Tom). Played beautifully by Josefina Scaro and Luis Salvagno, they’re amid an enactment of a fantasy game where he’s pretending to be the beloved Mexican pop idol, Marco Antonio Solís. One line of the lyrics translates to, “There is nothing more difficult than living without you.” Case in point: It is soon clear that Lorenzo is Antonia’s world, and she has no plans on ever leaving the house.

The mother Ursula (Ana B. Gabriel) is as complicated and interfering as Tennessee Williams’ Amanda Wingfield; however, in Paula’s version, she’s more intent on having her son break the news to her daughter that he’s leaving, which he’s reluctant to do. Never mind her drinking problem with an addictive cougar personality.

The Gentleman Caller, Maxi for short, drops by to pick up Lorenzo for a night out. They work in a diner together where he’s the bartender. Despite the 1990s internet reference to broadband and the early Mac laptop that Antonia uses, Maxi appears to be out of the 1950s (if not out of the film The Lords of Flatbush). Funnily enough, Lorenzo isn’t ready to run off with Maxi; he’s more intent on finishing the last 20 pages of Moby Dick. While Maxi waits, he has a poignant scene with Antonia, which veers drastically from the Williams version. Here, she’s strong, confident, and despite a possible heart palpitation that doubles her over briefly, she’s created a world with the internet and her family that doesn’t require anything else — and she skillfully argues the worth of her world over the alternative one on the outside. Instead of ending their dance together with the breaking of her cherished glass menagerie, it’s the evening’s plans that break apart, ending with an impassioned ballad, a forced kiss or two, and tears that leave everyone feeling alone and distraught.

Despite the small space and lack of theatrical instruments, Jay Ryan manages many effective changes in the lighting, often executed with the snap of a character’s fingers onstage — perfectly executed by stage manager Berit Johnson whose bio admits she “does a lot of this sort of thing.”

The compelling, honest performances and the old world charm of the Torn Page home make for a highly recommended visit, especially since all the performances are pay-what-you-wish. Since the space is limited, reservations are highly suggested.

photos of Josefina Scaro, Lucas Salvagno, Ana B. Gabriel, and Ben Becher by Maria Baranova

The Whole of Time
Joben Productions
Torn Page, 435 W 22nd St @ 9th Ave. 2nd floor in Chelsea
running time: 70 minutes
Thurs & Fri at 7; Sat at 6 & 9; Sun at 5 (Jan. 7 & 14); Mon at 7 (Jan. 15)
ends on January 27, 2024 EXTENDED to February 11, 2024
only 22 seats per performance
for required RSVP (Pay What You Wish; suggested donation of $44), visit Torn Page

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