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“An Opening in Time”

Hartford Stage

“An Opening in Time,” Christopher Shinn’s world premiere play currently at Hartford Stage, is a thoughtful, compassionate drama that explores the complexities of relationships and the impact of the passing of time. Set in a suburban town in Connecticut, this play centers on the character of Anne (beautifully played by Deborah Hedwall), who has only recently moved back into the town, and the effect that her presence has on the people around her. In particular, it focuses on her relationship with Ron (the excellent Patrick Clear), a man from her past whom she hasn’t seen in many years. If director Oliver Butler’s production feels a little disjointed and overly busy at the start, it mirrors the playwright’s constantly shifting perspective on both what brings people together, as well as what drives them apart. “An Opening in Time” is a quiet play that may not be for all tastes, but, if you are willing to go with it, it can yield many rewards.

As mentioned, “An Opening in Time” is an exploration of relationships and, above all, it is about the character of Anne and her journey back to a town she hasn’t been to in many years. The play opens with several very short scenes and a great number of scene changes (mostly set pieces rising from beneath the stage floor and then being lowered when the scene ends) that makes the play seem a bit scattershot, at first. But “An Opening in Time” eventually does take hold when Anne is faced with seeing Ron, a man from her past. It is obvious by what they say and don’t say to each other there is a history between these two characters. I am loathe to reveal anything more about the plot of “An Opening in Time,” other than to say that Christopher Shinn is a master at being able to write dialogue that rings absolutely true and, therefore, his play ultimately feels completely authentic.

As Anne, Deborah Hedwall is quite wonderful and her character is much more complex than she first appears. Patrick Clear, as Ron, matches her performance perfectly and together they make their scenes completely fascinating and deeply nuanced. Aside from the central couple, the other actors have much smaller roles, but everyone onstage is pretty terrific. I was particularly taken with the character of George (the gifted Brandon Smalls), who is a teenage foster child who lives next door to Anne. The playwright slowly develops the relationship between Anne and George and gradually reveals details about George that couldn’t possibly be predicted at first glance.

There is also fine work by the engaging Bill Christ, as Ron’s best friend Frank, and Kati Brazda wins laughs as the waitress at the diner where the characters hang out. Molly Camp is adept at being abrasive as George’s foster mother and Mike Keller makes the most of his brief role as a detective. Finally, the talented Karl Miller appears in a late and unexpected scene with Deborah Hedwall’s Anne near the conclusion that manages to rock the second act.

Still, it is the relationship between the two central characters of Anne and Ron that the audience ultimately roots for in “An Opening in Time.” One of the beauties of Christopher Shinn’s writing is that he is willing take these two characters through an emotional assortment of scenes and isn’t afraid, at times, to leave the audience to fill in the blanks. Mention should also be made that Oliver Butler’s direction greatly improves beyond the first few scenes and actually helps add shadings to the playwright’s views of how people communicate or fail to make a connection. “An Opening in Time,” at Hartford Stage is a heartfelt work and, though a little slow to get started, it grows in power as it goes along and is well worth seeing.

“An Opening in Time” continues performances at Hartford Stage in Hartford, CT through October 11, 2015. For tickets, please visit www.hartfordstage.org or call the box office at 860-527-5151.

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