Plenty of Time
[The following review is scheduled to appear in the Denver Post the week of September 17th.]
To successfully break stereotypes while imitating another's art is a tricky premise; the similarities may provide insight into universal truths or come off as mimicry. In the regional premiere of Shadow Theatre Company's Plenty of Time, playwright John Shevin Foster borrows on Bernard Slade's successful stage and screenplay formula for Same Time, Next Year, and creates an alternate history of African-American culture from the wide-open late sixties to the security-obsessed present.
Simone St. John and Quatis Tarkington redeploy the multi-faceted characterizations of Ellen Burstyn and Alan Alda from the film and bring alive Foster's open-minded take on the coming of age of a generation of the black bourgeois youth, doing for their culture what The Big Chill did for white kids of the same era.
Simone St. John as Christina
and Quatis Tarkington as Corey
Christina and Corey wake up together, after what they think is a one-night stand, at a private beach house in Oak Bluffs, a black resort on Martha's Vineyard, and immediately give each other grief. She is pretending to be an experienced college girl from the Hampton Institute and he is pretending to be a member of the Black Panther Party.
How they manage to respect each other's differences and provide support and comfort for each other—whenever they get together to "catch up" at the same beach house for a brief respite every year for the next 35 years—is both interesting and far-fetched: interesting, because it provides a vehicle for exploring the seminal events and music of the times; far-fetched, because of what their mostly illicit long-term affair implies about the rest of their lives.
But director Jeffrey Nickelson keeps it light, with St. John and Tarkington exuding a comfortable sexual tension and having good-natured fun at each other's expense. If anything, the surfeit of nostalgic hit tunes and photo ops used to define the years evaporating during scene changes distract from the subtle changes taking place in the hearts of our protagonists, where time is measured by spiritual progress.
Shadow Theatre Company's regional premiere of John Shevin Foster's Plenty of Time runs Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 pm, through October 7th. For tickets call 303-837-9355.