The Chronological Secrets of Tim
nytheatre.com review by Michael Criscuolo
May 20, 2007
The little-more-than-quarter-life-crisis gets the Kevin Smith treatment in Janet Zarecor's rowdy, effervescent new comedy, The Chronological Secrets of Tim. True to Smith's pedigree, Zarecor's play is frequently rude and uproariously funny. You will be sick with mirth by the end of it. But, Zarecor has the upper hand on Smith when it comes to depth. As hilarious as The Chronological Secrets of Tim is, it is also compassionate, and very wise about the multi-faceted nature of love. It possesses the kind of clear-eyed wisdom that one obtains by casting off the final vestiges of youth and stepping full-on through the doorway of adulthood.
The play's title character is a reformed tomcat who decides to propose to his longtime girlfriend, Manda, on his 30th birthday. When she picks that very same day to dump him, Tim goes into a deep funk and decides to end it all. Armed with a bottle of coconut rum, he climbs out on his living room window sill, hell-bent on nosediving into the sweet hereafter. But not before his ex-girlfriend, Alexandra, now a hedonistic lesbian, arrives to talk him off the ledge. Their conversation eventually comes around to the journal that Tim has kept for well over a decade. She wants to finally read it. Having nothing left to lose, Tim agrees, but warns her it "could be painful." Can you say, "Understatement of the Year"? Tim's journal reveals the depths of what a lying, cheating bastard he is. By the time Manda shows up to help get Tim back inside, The Chronological Secrets of Tim is well on its riotous way towards forcing this motley trio to face their inner demons, and reveal the secrets they've kept from each other...and themselves.
If this all sounds a little too serious to be a comedy, trust me: it's not. Zarecor has her wicked tongue planted firmly in her cheek. She takes the air out of Tim's suicide attempt by making it a media circus-type event: the crowd of spectators grows so big that it blocks the New York Yankees' team bus—so they get out and join the party. And, it does kind of become a party: there's a random guy barbecuing on the sidewalk, and Alexandra even orders takeout in the middle of everything. All the while, Tim is assaulted with a constant barrage of spectator taunts ("That's right beautiful! End it while we're all young!"). Not just in terms of setting, but also in terms of its caustic, snarky attitude, The Chronological Secrets of Tim is a true New York story.
Tim's horndog past is revealed through a series of flashbacks, as we witness his impulsive (and sometimes drunken) rendezvouses with a revolving door of pretty young things (all of whom are played wonderfully by the same actress, Liz Bangs). Zarecor introduces a couple of hilarious motifs, including the correlation between Tim's sex life and the Madonna song catalogue, and the sexual connotations of Mexican food. And, the fact that Tim still lives in the same bachelor pad he had as a college freshman—complete with empty beer bottles and pizza boxes, and heavy metal posters on the walls—humorously indicates his ambivalent view on growing up.
Like many other great comedies, The Chronological Secrets of Tim contains elements of melancholy and emotional unrest. Manda walks out on Tim because she discovers he was cheating on her. He counters that he's been faithful for the last six months: "You can teach a dog new tricks," he pleads, but no one believes him. Zarecor's insight into the reasons why wholesome girls sacrifice their purity, and the emotional cost for women who end up being a man's "eternal best friend," reveal the play's hard-won sagacity. There is a damaged-but-still-beating heart underneath all the sarcasm. Perhaps more than any other play I've seen recently, The Chronological Secrets of Tim truly understands, in the larger sense, what I think is meant by the phrase "the human comedy": we have no choice but to laugh at our misfortunes and our indiscretions, or else we will cry. Or, we will try to throw ourselves out the window.
Director Sarah Ali realizes this crazy, mixed-up world vividly, relishing the play's matter-of-fact bluntness, and reinforcing the story as one that could only take place in New York. Matt Stevens makes Tim a charming and endearing rogue: definitely the guy you love to hate, and vice versa. Kira Blaskovich's whip-smart turn as Alexandra gives the production a sharp-tongued center. The impish Corey Ann Haydu makes Manda equally sweet and menacing. And, Amanda Haley's set captures the careless, desultory nature of Manhattan singlehood perfectly.
The Chronological Secrets of Tim is a comic roller coaster ride you will want to take. Its hairpin dips and turns, in which it effortlessly balances both cutting humor and the redemptive power of forgiveness, are best exemplified by Alexandra, who chides Tim one minute by saying, "Diaries are like eulogies to me. Please tell me this is not a 'what does it all mean?' moment. We just don't have enough time before the cops break up your pity party." A few seconds later she grabs his diary and says, "Let's go get a beer, set this on fire, and forget the whole thing." I concur. The first round is on me.