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A CurtainUp Review
Breathing Time

" What am I supposed to do with this?".— Denise
Breathing Time
Lee Dolson, with Craig Wesley Divino in rear (photo: Jacob J. Goldberg)
Dramatic events affect all of us differently. Some are driven to change our lives, for better or worse; some leave all we know behind to start over somewhere new; some simply shut down, incapable of accepting the new normal. Either way, we never forget the moment which changed our worlds forever, and It's this conceit which lies at the heart of the Fault Line Theatre's new production of Breathing Time —that the relationships broken and formed in the wake of such events are inherently fascinating to watch unfold. It's a compelling premise, but whether the play delivers in the execution is another story.

Written by Farragut North and House of Cards writer Beau Willimon, the play revolves around two interactions. The first, between marketing hotshot Jack (Craig Wesley Divino) and derivatives whiz Mike (Lee Dolson) in the investment bank office they share, has a rather typical Odd Couple feel, as the responsible, punctual and uptight Mike is challenged and often frustrated by the laid back, smart and often hungover Jack. The second interaction between Mike's wife Julie (Molly Thomas) and Jack's sister Denise (Shannon Marie Sullivan) at a nearby restaurant three weeks later, sets up a similar contrast between the sheltered and privileged Julie and the free spirited, independent Denise.

Almost all of the show's ninety minute running time is dedicated to these two scenes. At least on its face there's a lot to work with, especially given the convincing performances turned in by all four actors and director Aaron Rossini's work to keep the tension building and audience engaged.

But it is work to keep that audience engaged, because the play isn't doing much of it on its own. The dramatic impact of the major (and obvious) twist is fairly muted, largely because the relationships are far too easily pigeonholed and the characters forced. The conversations in each scene swing from friendly to awkward to hostile and back again more often (and more predictably) than a Lifetime movie. And the dialogue, especially between Mike and Jack, tries much too hard to channel David Mamet, with f-bombs and other crude language and concepts flying back and forth-completely unnecessarily.

We're obviously supposed to find Mike's responsible uptightness both admirable and irritating, Jack's chaotic and selfish genius both engaging and offputting . . .and the fact we're obviously supposed to feel these things leaves us with very little to figure out about anyone on stage, whose internal motives are generally obvious and unchanging.

The scenes themselves are extremely talky, each environment a fairly static backdrop for two stereotypes to chat with each other. Even as an intellectual exercise this is problematic; as a theatrical experience it simply falls short.

All of this is a shame, because there are flashes of human insight and potential growth within the play, and both actors and director do what they can with the script. But ultimately Breathing Time is trying much too hard to be edgy and clever with its characters, and the sense that one is getting railroaded through their development is both palpable and problematic. Fault Line would have been better off letting the audience do a bit of the discovery for itself.

Breathing Time
Playwright: Beau Willimon
Director: Aaron Rossini
Cast: Whitney Conkling (Karen), Craig Wesley Divino (Jack), Lee Dolson (Mike), John Racioppo (Waiter), Shannon Marie Sullivan (Denise), Molly Thomas (Julie)
Set Design: Tristan Jeffers
Lighting Design: John Eckert
Costume Design: Izzy Fields
Sound Design: Chad Raines
Running time: Ninety minutes
IATI Theater, 64 East 4th Street, (212) 505-6757
From 3/21/14 to 4/13/14, opening 3/29/14
Wednesday-Saturday @ 8 p.m., Saturday-Sunday @ 3 p.m.
Tickets: $44
Reviewed by Dr. Gregory A. Wilson based on March 27th
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