Beautifully staged and often moving, "Time Alone" at the Los Angeles Theatre Center has a solid team behind it, including playwright Alessandro Camon, an Oscar nominee for co-writing the 2009 film "The Messenger," and star Tonya Pinkins, a Tony winner for "Jelly's Last Jam."
Camon's two-hander transpires in overlapping monologues between Anna Jackson (Pinkins), a traumatized shut-in whose police officer son was killed in the line of duty, and Gabriel Wayland (Alex Hernandez), a prison inmate sentenced to a 40-year term at age 17 and someone who has spent more than a decade in solitary confinement. The characters — both sympathetic, both impassioned — hold forth about their radically different views on the nature of time, regret and the criminal justice system. Gabriel speaks from his cell, Anna from the prison-like home. (Francois-Pierre Couture designed the functional, split set.)
Camon has a point to make about the cruel nature of solitary incarceration, and he grinds that ax, repetitively and to a fault, in his meticulously researched play. Fortunately, in an outstanding performance, Hernandez fills out the corners of what could have been a mere political prototype.
As for Anna, whose solitary state may be self-inflicted but is none the less painful, all that unremitting, claustrophobic anguish could have become one-note were it not for the stellar efforts of Pinkins. Never striking a false note, she balances Anna's suffering with ameliorating humanity and humor.
In this inaugural production of the Belle Rêve Company presented in association with the Latino Theater Company, veteran director Bart DeLorenzo helms a complicated staging with sensitivity and sheer logistical efficiency. John Zalewski's sound, with the cacophony of prison echoing through Gabriel's cell, seems designed to drive any inmate slowly mad, while Keith Skretch's ghostly projection design further emphasizes the characters' disorientation and emotional fragility.
"Time Alone" is, after all, about the nature of justice. To give Camon his due, his drama comes full circle in a beautifully realized denouement that emphasizes not only our human need for connection, but our innate and sometimes surprising capacity for forgiveness as well. His primer in pain ultimately uplifts — belatedly but eloquently.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Where: Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles
When: 8 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Monday, 8 p.m. Oct. 26-28, 3 p.m. Oct. 29
Info: (213) 489-0994, www.bellerevetheatre.com
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
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