While the characters in A Moment Too Soon watched each other jaunt through time, the audience saw a play stand still. For 60 minutes actors recited dialogue, sounds emitted from loudspeakers, and lights dutifully switched on and off, yet never was there anything approaching a hilarious or perceptive moment. Of course, not every scene of a play need be electrifying, but A Moment Too Soon seldom set off even the faintest spark.
Harry, a physicist, invents a device that allows the user to travel through time. Reminiscent of the Ray Bradbury short story "A Sound of Thunder," Harry ventures into the past and inadvertently changes the future. Upon returning to the present he finds himself married to a different woman and discovers his original wife in another marriage.
A mishmash of several genres, A Moment Too Soon was never sure of where it wanted to go, and as a result never went anywhere. Was the play intended as a romance? If so, the love story was undeveloped, while the characters' emotions were unexplored. (Note to playwrights: A woman saying she wants to have sex is not enough evidence of love. Just ask the ladies who advertise in the back pages of the Village Voice.) Was the play science fiction? Possibly, though it lacked imagination and insight. Five minutes into the play Harry unenthusiastically announces the completion of his life's work. A few sentences later he is asking for takeout food and worrying about a soap opera. These were not the signs of an inspired scientist. Was the play a comedy? There were jokes, but the laughs were few and far between. These three possibilities scrambled over each other for prominence, and as a result all were weakened to the point of blandness.
As Harry, Mark Foley seemed too skeptical of the material to invest any emotion in a performance. As his wife Gina, however, the always fun-to-watch Christine Mosere spent as much energy as the script would allow. Judy Del Giudice, playing a number of roles, was sincere and convincing in her ability to change character. But Richard Mamary, taking on a handful of characters from modern-day bartender to ancient soothsayer, was given the best lines. His performance as a shlocky real-estate agent in ancient Egypt offered hope the play might come to life. Alas, it was not to be.
Paul Weinstein's script and Chris Pelzer's direction were faulty. Conversations led to dead ends, scene changes were far from seamless, and too much was left unexplained. If the premise was that to alter the past is to change the present, why weren't the changes in the past ever specifically mentioned? Harry would go back in time, then return to see a different present ¯ with no explanation given of what he had done to the past.
To be sure, the cast was capable and the script was not entirely without merit. But aside from an occasional guffaw or a quick wisecrack, this play was puzzling where it should have been entertaining or thought-provoking. Indeed, somewhere deep down A Moment Too Soon wanted to be liked. Unfortunately, it was never really likeable.
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Copyright 2000 Ken Jaworowski