Thirty Minutes or Less
nytheatre.com review by Jason S. Grossman
August 18, 2009
Thirty Minutes or Less serves as a light, amusing comedy-drama. An Asian American man delivering Chinese food unwittingly stumbles upon a murder scene. He is repeatedly interrogated by the police, mistaken for Chinese, and soon becomes embroiled in an escalating media circus.
Jonathan G. Galvez has written a straightforward script that entertains multiple themes concerning race and prejudice. The lessons presented are even-handed as all of his characters communicate conventional biases (both negative and positive). Galvez also puts a nice progressive stamp to the story by depicting the two heterosexual leads as platonic friends, foregoing the usual perfunctory complications of a romantic relationship.
The script progresses reasonably well, with each successive scene raising the stakes in the story. There is a fair degree of tension and an air of mystery is upheld as to the details of the murder itself. Director Eliana Meira Rantz keeps everything moving at a clipped pace down to the quick scene changes.
Galvez might have been conflicted in wanting to supply enough comedy in a story of an innocent man wrongly suspected of murder. In doing so, Galvez softens the blows, and we are never overly concerned for the lead character.
Aspects of the plotting here feel contrived and most of the characters act impulsively. They have a peculiar tendency to have conversations in the presence of the very characters they're discussing. While this is a running joke of sorts, the overall impression is that the proceedings are mostly unrealistic. The impact of the injustice examined in the story is, therefore, watered down.
The author mines a fair degree of comedy from the various prejudices and intolerance that he seems to be criticizing. Although that may be the point, it's an unfortunate way to get laughs in the context of this play.
Michael R. Rosete is solid as the lead, Dale, around whom the media storm swirls. Rosete portrays him with enough levelheadedness and modesty for us to route for him. Ken Schwarz has the look and sound of a police detective on edge. Tony Castellanos as Tino Bami, a PR guru of sorts, has strong comedic timing and consistently garners the most laughs in the play.
None of the characters really appears to be taking the situation too seriously. If you appreciate a well-meaning show that has the look and feel of a television sitcom, this could be for you.