Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol

An Opening in Time
Hartford Stage

Deborah Hedwall and Patrick Clear
Christopher Shinn's An Opening in Time, a sometimes interesting piece in a world premiere production at Hartford Stage through October 11th, is a play of disconnects. A Wethersfield, Connecticut, native, Shinn sets his play now in a suburban town near Hartford. The work leaves plenty of room and, perhaps too much time, for those watching to ruminate, configure, and draw conclusions. This is about a woman in late middle age, Anne (Deborah Hedwall), who comes back "home" after three decades elsewhere. She is in search of meaning, peace, humanity ...

Anne is estranged from her son Sam (Karl Miller) who has been in trouble and is a troubling person; he appears relatively late in the show. Anne left the town to move to a farm with her husband who died a year ago. She probably was and now is in love with Ron (Patrick Clear), who is now divorced. He has been the pivotal director of high school theater musicals for years and is now newly retired—and missing the kids, process, and rewards. Ann, too, taught school.

Living next door is a foster teenager, George (Brandon Smalls), with the person who is his foster mother, Kim (Molly Camp). Someone is evidently breaking windows in the house Anne now occupies. It might be George or Kim or Sam. We will never know.

Antje Ellermann, designing, provides simply delectable exteriors and one interior look at houses during this chilly time of the year. The production features a multitude of locales, including a diner, pizza restaurant, Ron's home, and so forth. Ellermann and director Oliver Butler accomplish the shifts by lifting (from beneath the stage) counters, chairs, and so on. This is appealing at first but the procedure loses its initial attraction.

One surely sympathizes with Anne, who is lonely and lacking. She wishes to forge a union—with the man she pursues and with the son who has strayed. Christopher Shinn's decision to focus upon her is a wise one.

Hedwall's performance (and she might or might not be coached by director Butler in this regard) is halting and hesitant. She is a guarded woman who does not easily emote. This portrayal could very well match Shinn's intent.

While the play begins to move, with some drama, during its second portion, the rhythms of stress and tension are inhibited. Ron makes it clear that he wishes to couple with Anne and his character's impact and importance are obvious. She, a conflicted woman, cannot move forward. She is frustrated—and so, for that matter, might be the audience.

One could effectively argue that use of shock (and the only startling moments occur when glass is heard to break) would compromise the playwright's subtle purpose. Fair enough. Additionally, it is true that altering the more or less horizontal pattern of this script would sensationalize. The momentum, which is accelerating during the second act, is limited by a predictable ending.

Shinn (and this must be deliberate) leaves questions unanswered: the shattering of the windows; the fate of wayward Sam ... Tying of all these into a neat package could ruin the tone and tempo of this piece. Hence, one is left musing.

Still, this is a thoughtful play and, produced for the first time, it might yet evolve. A woman arrives at the age of 60 and desires to change her life and, with some good fortune, find some measure of happiness. Shinn's scripted words for Anne describe a human being who wants love and comfort. Hedwall's Anne, though, is distant. It is difficult for an observer to warm to her. More of the metaphorical dots (embodied by actual people on stage) must connect to maximize the strength of the script. Patrick Clear, as Ron, surely finds the passion within his character. A final special mention: Kati Brazda as Anetta, the waitress at the diner, provides comedic lift.

An Opening in Time continues at Hartford Stage in Hartford, Connecticut through October 11th, 2015. For tickets, call (860) 527-5151 or visit

Photo: T. Charles Erickson

- Fred Sokol

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