With the premiere of "Father Time," solo performer Paul Linke completes his autobiographical "Time Trilogy," at Pacific Resident Theatre. (The entire trilogy will be performed on Aug. 1.)
"Time Flies When You're Alive," the 1987 work that opens the trilogy, concentrates primarily on the battle of Linke's wife, Francesca, against breast cancer and her subsequent death. Part 2, "Life After Time," details Linke's travails as the single father of three young children, his descent into dating hell and "au pair despair," and his meeting of his second true love and present-day wife, Christine.
But as Linke points out, with typical good humor, happy endings are the stuff of fairy tales, and safe harbors are serene only until the next squall. Just when you thought it was safe to go into the family room, the kids hit the sea wall of adolescence, and you're propping up the crumbling masonry.
Staged by Charles Nelson Reilly, "Father Time" spans the period from Linke's own upbringing and turbulent adolescence to the equally stormy adolescence of his eldest son. Throughout the trilogy, Linke successfully transmutes the small and telling specifics of his experience into moving and entertaining narratives. "Father Time," however, is the most freewheeling and dishy of the lot.
This third part is not as evidently substantive as the first two segments, which are wrenching personal exorcisms in which Linke struggles, publicly and poignantly, with grievous loss and ongoing loneliness. Rather than the immediate and pressing issues of life and death, "Father Time" deals with garden-variety family problems, those niggling issues that can yield a bumper crop of dysfunction along the way.
In this outing, Linke concentrates primarily on the imperfect efforts of fathers and sons to communicate with one another across the generations. Linke's fascinating portrayal of his father, Richard O. Linke, a prominent personal manager who masterminded Andy Griffith's career from obscurity to "Matlock," drives the narrative. The association between his dad and Griffith spurred the family's move from the East Coast to Southern California, established his father as a mover and shaker in Hollywood, and overshadowed every aspect of Paul's young life.
Flawed, truculent and richly rendered, Richard O. showers his children with material riches and staggers them with the weight of his unrealistic expectations as his own marriage inexorably unravels. Decades later, Paul tries to avoid his father's mistakes as he raises his children--but as he learns, it is sheer hubris to believe that his own conscientious parenting can deter his strong-willed son from striking out on his own wayward path.
Buoyed by John Given's crisp sound design and abounding with gossipy anecdotes, "Father Time" is an intrepid and intensely personal reminiscence that brings Linke's generational saga full circle.
"Father Time," Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice. Sunday at 7 p.m. and Aug. 1 at 8 p.m. (310) 822-8392. $20-$22. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.