On Stage: Falling Out of Time

A grief-stricken man embarks on a journey in Theatre J’s adaptation of the David Grossman novel.

Michael Russotto and John Lescault in Falling Out of Time (Photo by C.Stanley Photography)

Michael Russotto and John Lescault in Falling Out of Time (Photo by C.Stanley Photography)

It is impossible to comprehend that any other tragedy can ever be more painful than the loss of a child — it upsets the balance of the universe. No parent, as one of the characters in the Theatre J premiere of “Falling out of Time” shouts, should outlive his child.

The play is based on the novel of the same title by noted Israeli writer David Grossman that he wrote about his grief over the loss of his son, Uri, who was killed in the second Lebanon war. A disaster, he said, that “now permeates every minute of my life.” He also said in his exploration of his mourning that in his novel he created “an emotional expanse that I have never known before, where death is more than an absolute, unambiguous opposite of life.”

What he has created is located in an undefinable anywhere location where a group of villagers, each of whom has lost a child, grapple with – grief in an impossible quest for “there”, to once again find the dead child somewhere there, when there is no there.

One man, simply named Man, tells his incredulous wife that he is leaving to go “there” to find his dead son, even though he doesn’t know what “there” means. It is an irrational quest just to see him once more … “Maybe even talk to him.”

And Man leaves the stage and circles Theatre J, walking up into the house and across two rows of seats closed to audience for his monotonous circling of the village. On this journey, others, a midwife, a cobbler, a net-mender and elderly math teacher, the duke and the town chronicler, eventually all circle through the theater in each trip to “there”.

Adapted and directed by Derek Goldman, the intense, competent cast he has assembled struggles unsuccessfully with the complex parameters of the grief Grossman is projecting. “Falling out of Time” may work better as a surreal novel than an 85 minute, without interruption, play. At times the constant circling of the theater was just tedious and distracting. It also created a static atmosphere and it felt as though the production could benefit with some judicious tightening.

There is no way to describe the life-long, inconsolable grief of losing a child. I know, because it happened to me. Grossman was courageous in his impossible quest for some level of solace for his pain, but that attempt is blunted in this precious theatrical staging of his “Falling out of Time” novel.

“Falling out of Time” runs through April 17, 2016. Call Theatre J’s Box Office at 202.777.3210 for more information.

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