Theater Spotlight: The Enemy: Time

Caroline Cooney & Peter Christian Hansen
Carl Schoenborn
Caroline Cooney & Peter Christian Hansen

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THE ENEMY: TIME
at Gremlin Theatre

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In addition to his less constructive pursuits, Tennessee Williams apparently spent an inordinate amount of time writing, producing such a bevy of work that a strange gem such as The Enemy: Time has until now never been produced for the stage in its more than half-century history. Granted, with its roughly 30-minute length, questions of value for money come into play (go see The Intelligent Homosexual the next night to even things out), which Gremlin addresses by offering a mellow social before the show, complete with snacks and bean-bag toss. The light mood shifts with startling rapidity after the lights go down, however. We witness the end of what seems to have been a spectacularly bad date between Phil (Peter Christian Hansen) and Rose (Caroline Cooney), punctuated by a front-lawn conversation with a few neighbors whose lust for gossip is resoundingly transparent. Turns out Phil is a blowhard wannabe actor, a onetime high school B.M.O.C. cruising into adulthood with serious loopholes in his ethics. Rose has been his longtime squeeze, except when Phil is off on ill-fated pursuits of stardom, and from the opening moment she's nursing a doozy of a grievance (Hansen and Cooney evoke fully formed characters under Jef Hall-Flavin's direction, no small feat considering the get-in-and-get-out nature of the assignment). This being Williams in his tragic mode, lots of juicy stuff follows: a local sex scandal, a pall of despair, V.D., and a bloody fistfight (all in a night's work for some, but still). It's very easy to imagine this drama playing out in a longer form (and Williams did use some elements of it in Sweet Bird of Youth), but it's also nifty to see it slide past in a slam-bang half-hour. Hansen manages to go from cocksure (pun intended) swain to writhing, devastated wretch in that span of time, and while the truncated format can't deliver conventional rising and falling action, we instead have an intense, enjoyable oddity—a Tennessee Williams world premiere, in Minneapolis, in 2009. See, time isn't relentlessly cruel. $20 (under 30 pay half your age). 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday plus 7:30 p.m. June 19 and 22. 2400 University Avenue W., St. Paul; 651.228.7008. Through June 28

 
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