Wednesday, April 23, 2008

When Is a Clock

Matthew Freeman's new play When Is a Clock is begging to be reset. At its heart, there's an ornate metaphysical mystery (something of a cross between Paul Auster and Jorge Luis Borges), with the sort of creepy poetry that allows dandruff to be described as "shavings . . . like someone put a little cheese grater to his milky skull" and a woman's transformation into a clock as "Her legs curled up inside her, her arms wrapped backwards, her head lowered into her widening neck. All of this sounds so . . . thundering and bizarre. But it was graceful. Like origami." But around this well-fashioned analog core, there's a slick, winking digital comedy that seems like effluvium from Mr. Freeman's recent, pointed one-acts (Trayf and The White Swallow). A clock can track both night and day, but When Is a Clock would keep better time if it excised the shallow office scenes, toned down the exaggerated cop, and focused on the family drama. (I make these criticisms because the plot is a blast of originality, and the playwright has a strong, richly descriptive voice that I'd just like to see used for more than pure entertainment.)

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