By Margaret Darby
As the audience takes their seats, an impatient young lady (Katherine Perry) is fidgeting in a luxurious salon in the home of La Duchesse du Pont-au-Bronc. Her cardboard suitcase is on the floor beside her and she is fiddling with her hat. She continues her impatient vigil until the lights go down.
Suddenly, a tiny tornado in heels rushes in. It is the Duchess (Tina Brock), dressed in a costume which could only be described as something between fantaisiste and farfelu: harem pants covered by a luxurious brocade top and high heels which she describes as Louis Quinze in the French version, which you can hear read by playwright Jean Anouilh himself by clicking this link.
The Duchess has kidnapped Amanda because she is the ‘living portrait’ of her nephew’s dearly departed lover. Kidnapping Amanda completes the Duchess’ efforts to recreate the three days that she thinks her nephew the Prince can never forget.
She is dead wrong. Her nephew has already forgotten his lost lover! He tries to remember her voice, her gestures, but that memory is fading. He knows his aunt, the Duchess, is trying everything she can to help him, so he plays along, going to the inn, the café, the ice cream stand, and the taxi that she has also hired so that he can live those three days over and over whenever he wants. Ashton Carter plays the Prince with delicate naiveté and keeps it right where it belongs without exaggeration. When he walks by our Amanda, posted in the park so he cannot miss her, and she says, in French, no less: “Excuse me, can you tell me the way to the sea?” her voice becomes the one he ‘remembers’.
Costume and set designer Erica Hoelscher has brilliantly used every inch of space to create the chateau, the inn, the taxi, the ice cream stand, the café, the park, by providing a single set with a dais in the back and six wings of trellis providing room for the props which the actors bring out in a rhythmic and entertaining dance for every change of scene. (No mean feat of coordination and planning by stage manager/props man Mark Williams.)
Tina Brock is her usual dynamo of boundless energy – full of the spirit of Anouilh’s gentle mockery and perfect in her timing. Thomas-Robert Irvin fills the show with interludes of very credible saxophone music which Director Jack Tamburri exploits to the fullest in the café scenes: when the courtship warms up, the music stops and the dialogue takes the forefront. When things go awry, Ferdinand (one of Paul McElwee’s many fabulous comic roles in the play) snaps his fingers and the saxophonist (Thomas-Robert Irvin) and singer (Corinna Burns) play on in a hilariously mechanical style.
Amanda (Katherine Perry) is quite funny as she warms up to her role as lover, which is most convincing. She needs a bit more French-style indignation at the beginning, but her role as the simple and modest milliner shines through in the final scene.
Corinna Burns is fantastic as the dry and unfeeling butler, the sly innkeeper, and she is stupendous as the bored café singer. Paul McElwee, Bob Schmidt, and Thomas-Robert Irvin delight in their many comedic roles and I feel sure that Jean Anouilh, who had Francis Poulenc write incidental music for his play, would have loved the addition of Irvin’s saxophone.
IRC’s Time Remembered, a lively and comic search for meaning and love, is a delightful way to forget whatever is weighing on you.
Time Remembered is on stage at Walnut Street Theatre Studio 5, 825 Walnut Street, Philadelphia through March 4, 2018. Tickets $15-$25. Order online; for more information, visit www.idiopathicRidiculopathyConsortium.org.