Fog permeated the pitch-black stage. A single light came up, illuminating two very distinct and contrasting characters. One amiable, even friendly in appearance: H.G. Wells, author of "The Time Machine."
The other tall and foreboding: Leslie John Stevenson, also known as Jack the Ripper, murderer of dozens. This eerie opening of J.E.B. Stuart High School's production of John Mattera's "Time After Time" created instant tension for everyone in the audience, a tension that continued throughout the show.
The show tells a fictional story about actual people. Based on the premise that H.G. Wells actually created a time machine, it explores the potential consequences if the infamous Jack the Ripper used that machine to escape capture and landed in 1979. When Wells discovers what has happened, he pursues Jack, hoping to force him back to the 19th century and his inevitable imprisonment.
While there were numerous frightening moments during the production, the actors did a nice job of incorporating some comic relief as well. Pedro Ribeiro as H.G. Wells succeeded in portraying realistic reactions that a time traveler would have to such "new inventions" as telephones, elevators and stop lights. These unspoken moments were only highlights of Ribeiro's performance, however. He excelled in all aspects of his performance; especially notable was his capability to remain in character at all times, which included an impressively consistent British accent.
Ribeiro was joined in his excellence by many other members of the cast. Michael Wilmarth as Jack the Ripper was effective in his efforts to put you at unease, despite his apparent ease on stage. Natalie Chami as Shirelle and Arash Almasi as a policeman were only featured in one short scene, but did a wonderful job of capturing attention. Chami had only a few minutes to endear her character to the audience, but she did a great job of it, making it all the more painful when Shirelle was brutally murdered.
Despite technical mishaps typical for an opening night performance, only two weeks of on-stage preparation due to school renovations, and an audience that was quite rude at times, the cast and crew persevered. The actors were quick and clever in making up for problems with costumes coming undone or sound cues being late, and the very impressive set, concocted by Ned Mitchell and Erik Kowalski, compensated for any other technical issues that may have occurred.
The cast and crew of "Time After Time" put on an entertaining show. Any production is slightly shaky during the first performance, and opening night was a good start to an impressive run of shows.