I am a big fan of theater that follows you out into the street.
You know, when the first thing that comes out of your mouth as you leave the theater isn’t “Do you remember where we parked the car?” or “Are we going to McGeary’s?”
No, what I am referring to is when you cannot stop talking about the play as you walk to the car, go to the bar after the play, or the next morning at work. That for me signifies a good play. And that is what happened to me after experiencing Capital Repertory Theatre’s world premiere production of Steven Peterson’s “Paris Time.”
ln her grand Paris apartment, stylish American ex-pat Deborah (Kelly Wolf) is actively concerned over what she is hearing from Reina (Jenny Ashman), a young acquaintance she has befriended while doing work at a community center that is fighting anti-Semitism. Reina’s car has been vandalized by a cinder block plunged through the windscreen. Reina, with Deborah’s eager encouragement, has been investigating a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the area. Could this be a warning?
But there’s more. Reina also works for Deborah’s husband, Charley (Marcel Jeannin), an engineering executive, plopped in Paris to oversee a multi-billion dollar revitalization project. Keenly concerned over this pointless act of violence against one of his employees, Charley is handling it the best way he can — through the company’s human resources department and assistance from the police. But that route of action is not sufficient action enough for Deborah. She suspects something more.
Empowered by her growing sense of purpose and her repressed anger at Charley’s seeming lack of concern about the issue, she makes a calculated move and its mistake.
Complicating matters further is the unexpected arrival of Charley’s affable boss, Martin (Wally Dunn). Distressed by the vandalism as well, Martin is a bit distracted as he has some bigger concerns that he is not yet ready to share. During a somewhat uncomfortable cocktail party which includes Philippe (Tom Templeton), a Frenchman who is part of Charley’s management team on the project, Reina makes an unexpected visit and the dominos start to tumble.
Peterson has written a fascinating, multi-faceted gem of a play that tackles a hot topical issue, the complexities of marriage, and weaves in a bit of a crime story. While the play is in need of a little polishing, you can clearly see the sparkle.
“Paris Time” has a crackerjack cast, is loaded with honest dialogue and a clever story arc. The only puzzling piece of the evening to me was the choice to present Deborah as “a really nice wife.” Her actions prove otherwise. She’s no prize. That cheerful, motherly concern for others is genuine; no doubt about it, but there’s more. Missing is the heat behind her passion for justice. I heard it clearly spoken on the stage, but never felt it. Is there any danger from her if she doesn’t get what she wants? Is this the first time she has had to “fix” things because her husband wasn’t, in her eyes, solving it correctly? Is she carrying any buried resentment toward her husband because she has stalled her legal career for his interests, or that she and Charley haven’t had children?
By openly allowing Deborah to be more of an emotional match to Charley, to show her teeth a bit, the discourse within the marriage would be an interesting contrast to things not being all that they appear in the rest of the play.
Interestingly, the marital tension is present in the script — Stevenson has put it all in the dialogue. Increasing the bass tones in Deborah’s character, in my opinion, would add a bit more of open and dangerous friction between the couple, allowing Charley’s rage at what she’s done equal to her rage of what he hasn’t done.
And perhaps a more controlled menace from Philippe when he is confronted by Deborah would make their final encounter a chilling match point with him triumphantly besting her instead of just allowing her to play shocked victim.
The entire cast is great under Gordon Greenberg’s sensitive and brisk direction. Paul Tate dePoo III’s handsome Parisian apartment stuns as do Tristan Raines’ sharp costume designs, artful right down to the shoes. “Paris Time” proves to be a very interesting time spent in the theater. Bravo.
WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: Through Feb. 18
HOW MUCH: $30 – $80
MORE INFO: 518-346-6204, capitalrep.org