A wry physicist once said, "Time is what keeps everything from happening all at once." That's true — unless everything is happening all at once, and it's only our overwhelmed minds that perceive it in small hourly and daily chunks.
Time is made even more intriguing in Tom Jacboson's play Ouroboros, now at convergence-continuum. While the content deals with love, faith, sex and the possibility of miracles, its structure twists time in ways that are at first perplexing. But if you embrace the initial disorientation, there are substantial rewards, not the least of which are some surprisingly funny moments.
In essence, two couples are visiting Italy on a tour of churches and cathedrals. One couple, the Episcopalian nun Margaret and her gay male friend Tor, begins in Rome and progresses through three other cities to end in Milan. Meanwhile, the Lutheran minister Philip and his depressive wife Catherine travel the same path, only in reverse order from Milan to Rome.
However, the wrinkle is that each couple's time in each city happens simultaneously and in the same space. So when Margaret and Tor are starting out in Rome, Philip and Catherine are finishing their journey there — and vice versa.
Confusing? You betcha. But also provocative, since Jacobson fashions four compelling characters that you want to follow on this off-the-clock odyssey. Philip and Catherine have major relationship issues, which leads Philip to bed Margaret in Florence. On the other hand, Tor and Margaret are trying to shake off the death of Tor's former partner. So Margaret is seeking a spiritual transformation, while Tor is on a more basic quest to have sex with a priest.
There are myriad ways this play could be botched, but director Clyde Simon keeps a firm hand on the controls while allowing his cast to explore their challenging roles, with varying degrees of success.
As dark and snarky Catherine, Amy Bistok-Bunce is a thorough delight. Snapping at hubby Philip with a barbed and self-deprecating tongue, Bistok-Bunce makes sparks fly off Jacobson's witty interchanges. And Geoffrey Hoffman generates many chuckles as the horny Tor ("I want to be fucked so hard my foot goes numb and I walk with a limp for three days."). But he is slightly less adept at plumbing some of Tor's more profound aspects.
Sarah Kunchik has sharp moments as Margaret, both in humble and more aggressive modes, but she has a difficult time maintaining a consistent character. Likewise, Joe Shultz as Philip is believable in flashes but the overall character is a bit blurry.
They are solidly supported by Christian Prentice, who plays a series of minor characters with crisp precision and admirable inventiveness.
To add to the fun, Ouroboros (the circular symbol of a snake devouring its tail) is performed in both directions on successive nights: Friday ("The Nun's Tale") and Saturday (The Priest's Tale"). The scenes are identical, but when viewed in opposite order, the time distortion becomes easier to comprehend. So if you like mind games, step right up.
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