The Time Machine
This aerial adaptation of H.G. Wells is neat, and there's nothing wrong with that
Reviewed by Dan Solomon, Fri., April 27, 2012
The Time MachineSky Candy Studio, 507 Calles #117
Through April 29
Running time: 1 hr., 30 min.
There's a lot of theatre that attempts to challenge us, to nourish us, to push the boundaries of what we're comfortable with, to move us, and to entertain us – but there isn't always enough happening on Austin stages that seems determined to leave audiences walking away saying, "Gosh, that was neat!"
Sky Candy's The Time Machine is that sort of show, though. It hangs its structure around a rough adaptation of H.G. Wells' novella, with the always delightful Aaron Alexander starring as the Professor who invents the device that sends both him and his sidekick Jack (Trey Deason) hurtling forward into the future. Once they get there, they encounter creatures unlike themselves who possess a particular fetish for aerial gymnastics and dance.
Which is where the neatness comes in. The entire plot, it becomes clear early on in the performance, is largely a device that enables us to have some context for the sky-based movement pieces we witness. There are rings and silks, a pole and a trapeze, though most of the movement performances possess only a tangential connection to the story of The Time Machine. Even Alexander and Deason are removed from those scenes – apparently untrained in the circus arts that Sky Candy specializes in, they're replaced by ringers like Andy Agne, Chelsea Laumen, and others, including an assortment of students from Sky Candy's classes.
The show's design is decidedly Steampunk: Gravity-defying bowler hats are the order of the day, though the sets are rather skimpy – the countless gears and clockwork elements that define the genre are merely suggested. Still, The Time Machine presents a definite vision of Wells' future, and it's one that takes place mostly up in the air. That's sometimes a little weird, given the original story's plot about the Professor's struggles to reclaim his machine from the underground-dwelling Morlocks. But Sky Candy generates some excitement on the ground, too, with fight scenes incorporating both capoeira and sparking machetes. It's in these moments – where the action that occurs on the stage advances the narrative, rather than interrupts it – that The Time Machine starts to venture beyond "this is neat" territory into something more.
Still, making something that's decidedly neat is admirable, and in lieu of steadily rising tension in the plot, The Time Machine wisely steps up the type of physical feats its cast performs as the show progresses. The first act focuses on rings; the second features silks, stage combat, stilts, costumes, and more. If the show managed to tie its aerial feats more directly to the story it was telling for the duration of the show, it might be genuinely amazing – as it is, though, there's nothing wrong with being neat.