Anger and pain are the shared emotions that link widow Anna Jackson and convicted killer Gabriel Wayland. They also share the stage — but never the same space — in Alessandro Camon’s powerful play of dueling monologues, Time Alone. Beyond their well-earned rage, these two lost souls have another unexpected connection, revealed only in the final moments of the 90-minute intermissionless production at Boca Stage.
The isolation of these characters is dramatically justified, for each is in solitary confinement. In teenager Wayland’s case, he has been convicted, imprisoned and later separated from the other inmates for a gang-goaded murder of another youth. For Jackson, her solitude is self-imposed, having cut herself off from friends and family after the devastating loss at gunpoint of her son, Lawrence.
Rio Chavarro and Karen Stephens inject a welcome humanity to Gabriel and Anna, despite their all-consuming bitterness. Brimming with nervous energy, Chavarro’s Gabriel paces his 9-foot-by-7-foot cell, a caged animal mulling his stark past, his dismal present and his hopeless future, speaking to an unseen listener for which the audience is a stand-in.
In contrast, Anna’s early days — before death abruptly consumes her existence — are pleasant memories of marriage to Cal, a policeman. They are later joined by their son, who follows his father into law enforcement. But even as Stephens relates her character’s former happiness, there is an undercurrent of recalled tragedy that will eventually overtake her. Back and forth the play goes between the two characters, a study in contrasts, and one begins to wonder what these two disparate people could possibly have in common.
Playwright Camon, an Oscar nominee for 2009’s The Messenger, writes with an urgency and an authenticity. We quickly sense that we know these two people. Over time, however, it is hard not to grow impatient with Time Alone, as it becomes a bit repetitive, marking time — there’s that word again — as it approaches its devastating conclusion.
Fortunately director Genie Croft’s two actors remain compelling throughout, finding a wide spectrum of ways to express their wrath. And Croft stages them with plenty of movement and activity, avoiding what had the potential to come off as static.
Credit also goes to scenic designer Ardean Landhuis, whose side-by-side environments underline the characters’ contrasting confinements. Gabriel’s cell is dingy and claustrophobic, while Anna’s well-organized and attractive kitchen proves to be no less of a cell.
Artistic director Keith Garsson’s selection of Time Alone furthers the company’s commitment to edgy, yet thoughtful theater. Few area troupes would venture into such dark territory and we are richer for Boca Stage’s risk-taking.
TIME ALONE, Boca Stage at Sol Theatre, 3333 Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Through Sunday, Jan. 22. $45-$50. 561-300-0152.