Gabriel Wayland (Alex Hernandez), powerfully recalls one of many memorable experiences prior to and since his incarceration. Photo credit: David Morrison
*On stage left, Gabriel (“how you say it depends on where you’re from!”) Wayland (Alex Hernandez) takes us inside his life in the small jail cell he will call home for the next 50 years. Charged with the murder of a rival gang member, he tells the audience that when the judge handed down that sentence, he may as well have said, “a lifetime.”
Anna Jackson (Tonya Pinkins) recounts all the joys she shared with her husband and son brilliantly!
Stage right reveals Anna Jackson, a grieving widow and mother whose husband died suddenly from a heart attack — prior to the murder of her police officer son. Jackson keeps busy in her kitchen and even manages to keep that sparkle in her eye as she recalls many beautiful memories before tragedy set in.
For the next hour-and-a-half, both will be speaking to you, the audience.
…and boy, do they have a lot to say…
Presented by the Belle Rêve Theatre Company at Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC) on Spring Street in Los Angeles, Time Alone is helmed by award-winning director Bart DeLorenzo (Geffen Playhouse Stage Kiss, Death of the Author), the production is in association with The Latino Theatre Company.
Time Alone does a marvelous job of tracing the parallel journeys of a young man convicted of killing a gang rival, and a woman whose son – a police officer – was murdered in the line of duty.
Both end up in places of extreme loneliness — a solitary confinement prison cell, and the silent house of the bereaved. As time itself seems to unravel, their tales both contrast and mirror each other, providing answers to each other’s questions — until they find new doors to life.
When EURweb senior editor, DeBorah B. Pryor, spoke with star Tonya Pinkins, she remarked how stressful the mere premise of the play appears to be, especially in today’s highly-charged political, racial and social climates. She wondered if the actress, known for being outspoken and taking on challenging roles, feels she has a lot to pull from.
“I have lost more than most people have ever had. I have a lifetime of experience to draw on for my work,” said Pinkins.
When asked if the fact that her dad was a police officer provided encouragement to go out for this role — and if she feels having this background provided valuable content, Pryor found herself blown away by Pinkins’ answer.
Having a father as a police officer allowed me to be in rooms with the biggest politicians and gangsters and to know from an early age that there was no difference between any of them.
Alex Hernandez in Time Alone at LATC. Photo credit: Kayt Jones.
This powerful work comes from the mind of playwright Alessandro Camon, who says, “Time Alone is born out of my ongoing period of research and volunteer work in the California juvenile justice and prison systems. I have been particularly interested in solitary confinement, which I studied in some depth.”
Solitary confinement is where we meet Gabriel. His recollections of the “assignment” that would change his life forever; the love he had for his older brother and what keeps him sane in prison provide insight into the research that Camon speaks of. Hernandez does a great job humanizing what we think of as “criminal.”
The author continues, “I am also interested in the experiences of crime survivors — particularly, people who lost loved ones to murder. I wanted to write dramatically about this, too. The characters in the play are fictional, but directly inspired by reality.“
Anna Jackson (Tonya Pinkins) faces a challenging moment when the unexpected happens. Photo credit: David Morrison
“We are living in the world of virtual and augmented reality, trans-humanism and the social media ability to construct universes of our own design,” Pinkins continues in her interview with EURweb. None of it is organic reality. None of it can change the fact that we are each powerless to grow a single hair on our bodies or that the next minute is not promised to any of us.
As painful as the premise of Time Alone is, its honest with that pain. It owns it.
The angst that Hernandez’s Gabriel brings forth as he exercises or cleans the toilet or pounds on the walls of the cell will no doubt take your mind to that neighbor, sibling, child, or parent who was — or still is — in lockdown.
“Being human is painful. I live with and in that pain all day everyday. I speak from that honesty and humility,” says Pinkins. “In today’s culture people do everything in their power to deny the pain of existence. Speaking from that truth is received as aggression because it shatters the illusions of wealth and power and anything but the innate fact of the equality of our humanness.”
“I’m authentically me and that makes some people uncomfortable,” Tonya Pinkins tells EURweb.
“Among other themes, our inaugural production ‘Time Alone’ speaks to the complexities of criminal justice, especially solitary confinement, and the relationship between perpetrators of crimes and victims,” says Michelle M. Núñez, Belle Rêve Theatre Company Executive Producer.
“Telling stories through theatre can expand the conversation in unique ways, and we aim to do so with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (headed by film producer Scott Budnick), as well as opinion leaders, lawmakers, and other advocacy groups. The goal is to raise awareness and promote engagement, putting theatre right at the heart of the issues that affect our community.”
Pryor asked Pinkins what she hopes audiences will take away from this work.
I hope that the audience expands their own capacity to sit in the presence of grief and suffering and not try to avoid it , make it stop or go away.–Tonya Pinkins
“I hope they expand their capacity to be comfortable in their own discomfort. I hope the audience expands their capacity to be authentically human. Allessandro has written…’pain connects us all.’
I hope the audience experiences that connection and that they don’t forget it too quickly; and that it informs the way they live from the next moment on,” Pinkins concludes.
Francois-Pierre Couture’s scenic design is perfect in its simplicity, as is Pablo Santiago-Brandwein’s lighting. John Zalewski’s sound design, especially in the prison scenes, is on point.
Time Alone is performed through Sunday, October 29 at Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC), Theatre 2, 514 S Spring Street Los Angeles. The performance schedule is Thursday -Saturday at 8p; Monday at 7:30p; Sundays at 3p and 5p.
Tickets are available now at bellerevetheatre.com or thelatc.org/timealone or by calling 213-489-0994.