Irony isn’t terribly present in Deb Margolin’s four playlets, Time Is the Mercy of Eternity, now playing at the West End Theatre, but it certainly permeates the evening. Because, as the overwritten and often wearisome pieces unfold, one begins contemplating the concept of eternity as it relates to theatergoing.
The evening starts off with a monologue, When They Quiet Down I Start, delivered by an edgy bus driver (Curzon Dobell) with a secret. Dobell infuses the character with a kind of nebbish- goodness and simplicity that might bring to mind Ed Norton from The Honeymooners, but he hasn’t yet mastered the language of Margolin’s frantic and scattered confessional. Dobell’s tentativeness, coupled with uneven delivery of Zack Sultan’s video design and Geo Wyeth’s soundscape, ultimately undermines the power of this piece that examines what might drive an individual to commit a terrorist act.
In Clarissa and Larmon, the show’s second offering, and the evening’s high point, a soldier (Khris Lewin) visits Clarissa (Lisa Kron) and her husband Larmon (also Dobell) to provide cool consolation after their son has been killed in battle. Along with his words, the soldier can only provide one other thing — a photograph of the couple’s son’s leg. It’s a cruel reminder of the child that they’ve lost and serves to kindle recriminations from Clarissa about Larmon’s relationship to his son.
This somewhat cutting portrayal of the human cost of war is followed by the least successful of Margolin’s pieces, The Rich Silk of It, a confused meditation on the nature of obsessive love. The piece begins with a man (Lewin), identified only as “He,” taking aim at a woman (a one-note turn from Claire Siebers), identified only as “She,” with a gun; although, actually he’s pointing his finger at her in a gun-like fashion. From this, the short play jets back and forth through time indistinctly, charting the couple’s stormy and intense relationship. Director Marc Stuart Weitz’s staging does little to illuminate the jagged shifts in the script, and Lewin, indistinctly switching between multiple roles, including a bartender friend of “She” and a priest, only blend to confuse the already perplexing writing.
The evening winds down with the title piece, where, “Woman in Blazer” (Kron) commandeers a gigantic bed to muse on a phrase that she learned when she was a child: “time is the mercy of eternity.” Her thoughts on how this means that time allows us to feel as if we can actually own a piece of endlessness are often quite amusing, particularly in Kron’s increasingly antic delivery. Moreover, sensing the piece’s conclusion, we are able to contemplate one other thing: the end to “eternity.”