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Timepiece
City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center
Santa Monica, CA
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Betty thought she had all the time in the world to fall in love. Bob wishes she would love him.  Bernice is afraid to go home, and Burt is just plain angry at everything. What happens if someone unexpectedly told you are running out of time and exactly how much you have left?  What does it meanfor her and the others?  Bob wants to help but the rest of them just argue. Bebe wanders in to announce that time has no meaning. Billie emerges from a refrigerator with ideas of her own. Finally, Superman holds them all hostage, demanding compassion at the point of a gun. This witty new absurdist comedy by playwright Charles Duncombe helps laugh at our ultimately silly and illogical view of love, life, and death.

"After many years of extraordinarily original adaptations at City Garage with his ongoing collaborator, director Frédérique Michel, playwright Charles A. Duncombe has delved more deeply in the machinations of metaphor in his recent works, Caged, and now the even less mysterious, more playful, Timepiece. Trafficking lightly in existential quandaries through contemporary rhetoric, Timepiece may essentially be intellectual frou-frou, yet it is still a fairly substantial exercise in which to indulge the allusive theater-making at which Duncombe and Michel excel.

"Duncombe provides all his archetypes with eloquent arguments, which the actors deliver with breakneck aplomb.CG mainstay Roberts has never before had a role suit him so snugly. Nelson sparkles with a comedic flair appropriate to a post-modern Carole Lombard. Segal endows a conscious cliché with genuine emotion even as she claims to feel little, while Ulloa-McDonald needs to carry the entire vehicle while playing someone temperamentally miscast in a role so central.

"Michel pushes the pace to the practical limits of the performers, and never past. As frequently is the case at City Garage, the ghost of Ionesco does not linger far. And there is no little suspense generated as to how she will manage to interject the pubic exposure that certifies her signature as much as the walk-on was for Alfred Hitchcock.

"Before the action begins, the sound system plays Marlene Dietrich singing Cole Porter's "You Do Something To Me", which occurred to me could become the theme song for City Garage: they "do that voodoo, that you do so well."
-Myron Meisel, Stage Raw


"Charles A. Duncombe's new play at City Garage, "Timepiece," pays homage to the mid-20th century theater of the absurd: those bleak yet antic plays by Beckett, Ionesco, Genet and others that drove home the futility of mankind's search for meaning in the universe.

"Once an avant-garde movement, absurdism has gathered some dust in the intervening years. Duncombe and his longtime collaborator, director Frédérique Michel, so carefully reproduce its tropes  a queasily undefined setting, archetypal characters, pointedly unpredictable behavior, a deep-seated, vaguely Sputnik-era fear of machinery  that this production could be a revival of some forgotten classic, unearthed perhaps from a fallout shelter.

"Betty (Renee Ulloa-McDonald), an energetic young woman reading a romance novel aloud to herself, is interrupted by a guy in whiteface described in the program as the Timekeeper (Jeffrey Gardner). Pleasant if cryptic about his motives, he sidles onstage in a mechanical manner and hands Betty an oversized alarm clock, set for an hour and a half and urgently ticking.

"Betty is unable to put the clock down. She solicits passersby to help her: Burt (Bo Roberts), a grumpy misogynist who finds her predicament offensive; Bob (Anthony M. Sannazaro), who wants to be her hero; Bernice (Katrina Nelson), who has fled her own home out of fear of her devices; Bebe (Nili Rain Segal), a bored, wealthy beauty; Billie (Megan Kim), who lives naked inside a refrigerator and suffers from a kind of cosmic agoraphobia; and Superman (Johanny Paulino), just a guy wearing a Superman T-shirt, who carries a gun and has vengeance on his mind.

"Most of them have chosen clothing in the same red, black and white palette (courtesy of costume designer Josephine Poinsot).

"The characters take turns delivering rants, summing up their various existential quandaries, each moving in a distinctive, repetitive way that suggests the inner workings of some enormous, sinister device.
Their speeches, delivered eloquently, are absorbing in their headlong, stream-of-consciousness style. The topics are diverse and relatable  so much so that the piece occasionally feels like "The Breakfast Club" as rewritten by Camus  and at moments darkly comic.

"After delivering the most soul-chilling disquisition of all, Superman tells Betty, "I hope you can find some comfort in that."

"Although there is little chance of a happy ending for poor Betty or her new friends, there is an odd comfort to be found in absurdism, as Duncombe reminds us in this affectionate tribute.

"In Anthony M. Sannazaro's gorgeous video backdrop of floating clouds, I started seeing or imagining the eyes of some kindly disposed god. The human compulsion to find meaning, even if doomed to failure, has certainly led to some wild and entertaining theories."

-Margaret Gray, Los Angeles Times

"Charles A. Duncombe's new play at City Garage, "Timepiece," pays homage to the mid-20th century theater of the absurd: those bleak yet antic plays by Beckett, Ionesco, Genet and others that drove home the futility of mankind's search for meaning in the universe.

"Once an avant-garde movement, absurdism has gathered some dust in the intervening years. Duncombe and his longtime collaborator, director Frédérique Michel, so carefully reproduce its tropes  a queasily undefined setting, archetypal characters, pointedly unpredictable behavior, a deep-seated, vaguely Sputnik-era fear of machinery  that this production could be a revival of some forgotten classic, unearthed perhaps from a fallout shelter.

"Betty (Renee Ulloa-McDonald), an energetic young woman reading a romance novel aloud to herself, is interrupted by a guy in whiteface described in the program as the Timekeeper (Jeffrey Gardner). Pleasant if cryptic about his motives, he sidles onstage in a mechanical manner and hands Betty is unable to put the clock down. She solicits passersby to help her: Burt (Bo Roberts), a grumpy misogynist who finds her predicament offensive; Bob (Anthony M. Sannazaro), who wants to be her hero; Bernice (Katrina Nelson), who has fled her own home out of fear of her devices; Bebe (Nili Rain Segal), a bored, wealthy beauty; Billie (Megan Kim), who lives naked inside a refrigerator and suffers from a kind of cosmic agoraphobia; and Superman (Johanny Paulino), just a guy wearing a Superman T-shirt, who carries a gun and has vengeance on his mind. Most of them have chosen clothing in the same red, black and white palette (courtesy of costume designer Josephine Poinsot).

"The characters take turns delivering rants, summing up their various existential quandaries, each moving in a distinctive, repetitive way that suggests the inner workings of some enormous, sinister device.

"Their speeches, delivered eloquently, are absorbing in their headlong, stream-of-consciousness style. The topics are diverse and relatable  so much so that the piece occasionally feels like "The Breakfast Club" as rewritten by Camus  and at moments darkly comic.
After delivering the most soul-chilling disquisition of all, Superman tells Betty, "I hope you can find some comfort in that."
Although there is little chance of a happy ending for poor Betty or her new friends, there is an odd comfort to be found in absurdism, as Duncombe reminds us in this affectionate tribute.
In Anthony M. Sannazaro's gorgeous video backdrop of floating clouds, I started seeing or imagining the eyes of some kindly disposed god. The human compulsion to find meaning, even if doomed to failure, has certainly led to some wild and entertaining theories."
-Margaret Gray, Los Angeles Times
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We hope you enjoyed "Timepiece." Please come see us again at City Garage.

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City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center (View)
2525 Michigan Ave. Building T1
Santa Monica, CA 90404
United States

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