Paris Time is a world premiere, something we don’t see often in the Capital Region, and for that reason alone deserves applause; I’m a big fan of taking a risk on new theater. The show, written by Steven Peterson, won Capital Repertory Theatre’s Next Act Play Summit in 2016, and has now moved onto the mainstage. It’s an interesting piece, but one with issues.
Deborah (Kelly Wolf) and Charlie (Marcel Jeannin) are married ex-pats living in Paris; Charlie is running a company, and Deborah has recently begun a job working against anti-Semitism in the city. A young Jewish woman, Reina (Jenny Ashman), one of Charlie’s employees who also volunteers with Deborah, has been the target of anti-Semitic violence, and Charlie is torn between his job, which seems to want to sweep the whole thing under the rug, and his wife, who wants him to take a stand.
The writing itself seems a bit muddled to me. Although a very short piece, the author seems to try to work too many issues into the work: anti-Semitism (which should have been, in my mind, the main thread); the problems (and secrets) in Deborah and Charlie’s marriage; Charlie’s issues at work and with his coworker Phillipe (Tom Templeton) and his boss Martin (Wally Dunn) and Deborah and Reina’s complicated relationship, just to name the main conflicts. There are also things that are introduced that are never brought up again – to paraphrase Chekov, if there’s a rifle hanging on the wall in Act One, it had better be fired in Act Two. There’s no rifle (I’m not going to spoil things for you) but there’s something akin to a rifle – and it never went off. It simply disappeared. There was also a tool used for something that I don’t think it could have been used for, and I simply don’t believe someone of Deborah’s age would do some of the things she did – and things like this pull the audience out of the action.
The actors were well-suited to their roles and did a fine job; Gordon Greenberg kept everyone in check and the pacing and staging were superb. Ashman was the standout; her French accent and mannerisms were on point and I wish we’d seen more of her character. Jeannin was believable as a kind man trying his hardest and had excellent stage presence; Wolf did well with the emotional Deborah, even though the character herself wasn’t very well-written. Dunn was perfect as the somewhat-bumbling American and Templeton, despite a less-than-perfect accent, played the unctuous Phillipe to a tee, providing the one true gasp-worthy moment of the evening.
Paul Tate dePoo III’s set design is a sumptuous delight – a late 1800s Paris flat overlooking the Eiffel Tower, with beautiful furnishings (and a chair and lighting fixture I’m lusting after.)
All in all, although I think the play itself needs work, new work in the area is always welcome, especially from theater like theREP with a loyal audience to introduce it to.
“Paris Time,” Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany; through February 18; $55 – $20; Run time: 90 minutes with a 15-minute intermission; http://www.capitalrep.org/