Good 'n' plenty

Plenty of Time

By John Shevin Foster
Directed by Jackie Alexander
By Inneract Productions
Primary Stages Theatre
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Charles Battersby

Playwright John Shevin Foster is very open about the fact that his play Plenty of Time was directly inspired by Bernard Slade's Same Time Next Year. Both plays chronicle the lifelong affair of a couple who meet once a year in the same place over a period of decades. Aside from being a playwright, Foster is also the artistic director of Inneract Productions, a theatre company dedicated to producing "Quality theatre of Color." As such, Foster's play is written so as to be uniquely African-American and, while it takes its concept from Slade's play, "Plenty of Time" has its own voice and story.

Plenty of Time starts off in1968 and ends in 2002 (a lengthier and more modern period than Same Time...). At the start, Christina (April D. Parker) and Corey (Jonathan Kitt) are a couple of kids who've just completed what they thought would be a one-night stand. After all, she's a wealthy upper-class girl just out of high school and he is a self-proclaimed black militant and (possibly?) a Black Panther. By the end of scene one, they've resolved to continue their affair the next year, which ends up turning into 35. Over the course of the affair, the play tackles political and social issues including black militarism, feminism, Vietnam, and AIDS. Despite the social commentary, the play focuses less on these events and more on the characters dealing with them, and never becomes preachy (in fact there's sometimes a tongue-in-cheek feel that seems to mock the youngsters and their political passions).

The journey through time is effectively portrayed. Topical references litter the dialogue to let the audience exactly know what year it is, and the design and tech also nailed the time periods down, with the set aging right along with the characters. Props were meticulously period appropriate, right down to the gigantic mid-'90s cell phones and the stack of primitive vinyl music disks in the scene set in the 60s. The music itself (Lock-N-Load Productions) sets up each scene with decade-appropriate hits. The costumes, by Helen Simmons, not only indicated the time, but also highlighted the characters' lifestyles, often clueing the audience in on what's happened between scenes before even a word of dialogue has been spoken. Of course there were a few flubs in the continuity (did that box of matches and pack of Newports really stay in the same room for 20 years?), but nothing that could mar the production. The cast managed to age in a remarkably realistic manner. Of course the aging was assisted by Diane DiBernardo's make-up, but the 35 years that Corey and Christina put on were also the result of excellent performances.

Director Jackie Alexander must be commended as well. A play where the same two people sit around the same room talking for scene after scene could get boring in the hands of a lesser director, but Alexander kept the show's energy up and got big performances out of his small cast.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Charles Battersby