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Buying Time

Reviewed by Michael Lazan

Presented by the Hypothetical Theatre Company at the Sol Goldman Y of the Educational Alliance, 344 E. 14th St., NYC, Nov. 1-Dec. 3.

Yet another of Michael Weller's effective examinations of the world of faded flower-children, "Buying Time" casts its sights on the law, more particularly Bennett Traube, a partner at an Arizona law firm known for its commitment to public service work.

The middle-aged Bennett, at a crossroads in his personal and professional life, is required to make a decision about whether to pursue an environmental litigation despite the hazards that this might pose to the firm's client base. When Bennett opts to follow through with the case, mostly because of a lissome female attorney named Christine, internecine battles at the firm and back at the house await, as Weller again explores the slow fade of charitable and beneficent instincts in the current social landscape.

Though some of the legal pyrotechnics seem quite contrived for a real law firm, all this works in quite an absorbing fashion because Weller never sacrifices structure in his efforts to depict character. And Amy Feinberg's Hypothetical Theatre Company does the play justice, handling the many characters with ease, and snapping through some of the more complex and "legalistic" speeches with aplomb. Lee Sellars is always believable as Traube, but the more dynamic performances come from the ensemble, in particular Tibor Feldman, astonishingly real and sorrowful as a nervous partner named Del who is amenable to "selling out." Jennifer Gibbs is also quite compelling and seductive as Christine, and Chuck Montgomery shows some range as two very different characters, the progressive former managing attorney, Max, and the crude industrialist, Sutter. It's all framed by Mark Symczak's handsome red rock display, making it clear where we are, and perhaps underscoring what the litigation is really supposed to be about.

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