I confess, I hadn’t heard of R. Eric Thomas and was introduced to his work Here For It for a library book group discussion — those groups helped save my life last year, by the way. Along with reading more books than I have in life, I laughed my socks off with Thomas’s wry humor, observations, wit, and humility. So I looked forward to seeing his expansion into playwriting and theater. Plus, I wanted to become acquainted with Perisphere, a relatively new theater group with the mission “to produce plays that examine personal and collective history and the notion of history itself.” Time Is On Our Side with its cast of zany characters on their own journeys and quests is a perfect selection for Perisphere and for us here and now.
Best buds Annie and Curtis team up to produce a podcast on little-known facts about Philadelphia history. Always on the prowl for secrets and gossipy tidbits to snag listeners, Curtis perks up when Annie (in an adorably clever moment of discovery) finds her grandmother’s diary. Annie was already working on her grandfather’s story, a noted city councilman, and was plodding through his diary seeking newsworthy events. The grandmother’s diary contains hints of intrigue with frequent and sometimes even endearing reference to a woman involved in gay liberation activities going on in the 1970s. What to do with the information sets the characters up for hijinks and collision as they delve into the past for easy answers and end up discovering more than they bargained for.
Jordan Brown is a hoot as Curtis, comfortable in his own queer skin, perspectives, and mannerisms. Curtis is determined to live his life on his terms and follow his bliss, zero income revenue stream be damned. Emily Dalton plays Annie with grit and determination to get the job done with no-nonsense realism. At the same time, she recognizes and appreciates the combustible energy of Curtis’s loud and raucous high-wire flinging approach to life. Dalton gives Annie lovely layering — she is practical to the max while she also seems to want to live life with gusto the way Curtis does. Because of that, she gives him more leeway to proceed beyond her comfort zone, maybe hoping a bit of his uninhibited abandon will rub off on her. That is, until he goes too far. Annie wants to tuck the diary pages away to protect her family’s privacy, while Curtis becomes so obsessed with the secret lesbian possibility that he sets up a forensic storyboard in the style of detectives tracing who was where and when for a murder investigation. When he starts sharing some of the scoop live on air, he has pushed too far, Annie goes ballistic, and it’s anyone’s guess if the friendship will survive, let alone the podcast.
The ensemble characters are just as robust. Pauline Lamb and Leo Delgado play multiple roles including besties in the group. Lamb traipses in as Claudia, wearing a flowing sheer caftan top, who has eyes for Annie. She shines as Mr. Ramondi, bantering with Curtis about Baby Jane and Sofia’s line about Harpo from Color Purple. Delgado portrays all of his characters with chuckling hilarity, especially when he and Curtis riff off cruising and queer magic. I laughed to tears at the memories and old-school fun, playfully directed with a wink and nod by Gerrad Alex Taylor. These two ensemble characters are crucial in setting the historical scenes in portraying Annie’s grandmom, the grandfather’s reclusive closest companion (love interest?), and an elderly insider who doesn’t mind sharing what it was like being in the room where it happened. Set Designer Greg Stevens and Lighting Designer Adam Mendelson provided a surreally lit back wall of photographs that seemed to take on lives of their own. Their design helped emphasize the message that stories are important and provide entryway to new experiences and insights.
When asked why he wrote the play, fav son Baltimorian R. Eric Thomas responded, “I wanted to write a play about how history continues to live around us and we continue to make history by living.” Thomas can definitely add playwriting to his constantly growing lists of talents. Time Is On Our Side won the Barrymore Award (Philadelphia) for Best New Play when it was produced by Simpatico Theatre in 2016. And Perisphere Theater can chalk up well-deserved kudos for a fun-filled romp in the theater again.
Running Time: Two hours 20 minutes with one 15-minute intermission
Perisphere is among the DMV theaters that require proof of coronavirus vaccination for admission and require patrons to be masked inside. For more information, see Perisphere’s COVID-19 Precautions page.
ARTISTIC & CREATIVE TEAM
Playwright: R. Eric Thomas
Director: Gerrad Alex Taylor
Featuring: Jordan Brown, Emily Dalton, Pauline Lamb, Leo Delgado
Set and Costumes: Greg Stevens
Lighting, Photography, and Projections Designer: Adam Mendelson
Producer, Dramaturg, Sound Designer: Kevin O’Connell
Stage Manager: Sam Rollin