Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 28, 2015

An Opening in Time

Hartford Stage, Hartford, CT 
through October 11, 2015
by Bernadette Johnson

Thomas Wolfe insisted, “You can’t go home again.” Christopher Shinn’s “An Opening in Time” supports this premise. From the outset, Shinn’s protagonist, the recently widowed Anne (Deborah Hedwall), moving back to her Connecticut hometown after a long absence, notes how things have changed (there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner). She painstakingly discovers that those she left behind have changed as well, and, though she doesn’t at-first acknowledge it, she herself has changed significantly.

Anne has returned for two reasons—to be closer to her estranged son, a convicted sex offender, and to possibly rekindle a lost romance. Time blurs memories, as both Anne and Ron (Patrick Clear), her estranged love interest, now divorced, soon discover as they piece together their puzzled past. They once sacrificed their chance at love. Will time and circumstances allow them a second chance? There are still obstacles; especially what Ron considers being Anne’s double obsession—her son Sam (Karl Miller), and George (Brandon Smalls), a disturbed teen the former teacher has befriended.

The script is a challenging one for scenic designer Antje Ellermann, who has cleverly made use of mini-sets rising out of trapdoors in the floor. Though the technique is efficient, it soon becomes tedious, especially as one of the main settings, a diner counter and stools, repeatedly “pops up.” The mini-sets also have drawbacks, such as Anne having to sit with her back to the audience for an entire scene. Ellermann’s predominant setting, distinctly New England clapboard houses amid barren trees, is somber and staid, a fitting backdrop for Shinn’s bleak drama of love and loss, heartbreak and misunderstanding.

In their respective roles, Hedwall and Clear portray their characters’ uneasiness and indecision almost to a fault, and Smalls is appropriately reticent and hesitant, although his character is not allowed sufficient time to unfold. After only brief encounters, he shares a deeply held secret with Anne.

There are time lapses that are not always clear and questions left unanswered, such as who is responsible for Anne’s broken windows and why Kim (the perky Molly Camp), a neighbor who is George’s foster mother, keeps inviting and dis-inviting Anne to dinner.
Perhaps Wolfe was right after all.