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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Experimental students’ play a mixed bag

    Snippets of dreamy, romantic music pour into the house, washing the audience in the warmth of memories slightly out of reach. The music prepares the audience for mental participation, evoking a willingness to draw on your own nostalgia and admit your memories could be hazy dreams.

    “These Watches Can’t Tell Time” is the story of two lost souls, unsure of where, when or how they met — and how to move forward without a past to guide their way.

    Nameless, The Woman (Andrea Head) stands alone in a buttercream-colored living room. Midway through relaying memories she believes to be of her childhood, a masked person in black lunges from the audience, tackling The Woman to the ground — breaking the fourth wall.

    Deus ex Machina (Laura Bargfeld), silent, garbed in black formfitting attire, wears a white mask with only their eyes visible. The characters sense their presence, though this remains unmentioned. Deus ex Machina is neither seen nor heard.

    The Man (Simon Ridley) enters the living room comfortably talking to The Woman, momentarily dazed from the attack, with ease.

    Hastily-spoken banter, fueled by opening night jitters, still conveys the chemistry that comes with shared history. The origin of this familiarity frustrates the two as their banter shifts from friendly, argumentative, annoyed and back to friendly. Occasionally, Deus ex Machina claps their hands, and the characters respond in a broken-record manner with a more palatable answer until Deus ex Machina approves.

    Unsure if they were lovers, cousins or neighbors, they search for similarities. Energized and possibly connecting mutual points of memory, they proclaim they are atheists. This signals purposeful confusion into the validity of everything both characters did and will say — due to two crosses and a picture of Jesus nailed to a wall. Multiple viewings of the play would be necessary to determine if the living room is tangible or an effort to add realism to delusion.

    Romantic chemistry quickly escalates, drawing Deus ex Machina into action after The Man spontaneously admits his love for The Woman. Magically pulling the two apart, Deus ex Machina’s clapping hands dispel the couple’s passion.

    The few, arbitrary F-bombs are misguided attempts at dramatic realism. Jokes about masturbation and humping dogs hit the wrong note, yet somehow segue into looks of love.

    The lighting becomes gauzy as The Woman sees the manipulative Deus ex Machina for the first time, and the masked character’s power is now in the fragile hands of The Woman. By banishing Deus ex Machina, The Woman now pilots her destiny to capture The Man’s devotion.

    Declarations of love and commitment are exchanged after The Woman snaps her fingers with newfound power until The Man gives her the answers she craves. Their relationship moves too quickly without the substance of even knowing who they really love. The compatibility is forced. The rushed intimacy reveals the awkward incompatibility that impinges their relationship due to their lack of shared history or developed emotional trust.

    It is unclear if Deus ex Machina’s involvement with The Man and The Woman was detrimental or protective. What is clear is the absence of their involvement attests to how The Woman’s need for autonomy without external input is more destructive.

    The final scene does not offer the audience closure, because reality doesn’t coddle. This isn’t a play intending to provide answers. It asks the audience to challenge what we know to be true and whether relative truth arrests development.

    Written and directed by the actors, “These Watches Can’t Tell Time” is an existential play showcasing their potential, experimental storytelling and why original theater is necessary for the storytelling process.

    “These Watches Can’t Tell Time” runs until Feb. 7 at Live Theatre Workshop.

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    Follow Anna Mae Ludlum on Twitter.

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