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O TIME






O TIME is a queer solo piece presented by United Solo's 2024 Spring Festival. Starring David Zellnik, this piece tells the real-life story of David's discovery of a friend's death and his suspicion that the cause of said death- a sudden bacterial infection- was too convenient to be true.

Having grown up during the HIV/AIDS epidemic in America, Zellnik experienced the grief of watching members of the gay community waste away and being unable to prevent it. Knowing his friend George, a young queer man working as a producer in Brazil, could have died from a disease whose prevention is now very accessible causes Zellnik to feel it is his responsibility to bring his cause of death to light. He does so by traveling to Brazil and interviewing George's close friends and family. Zellnik approaches his journey in a journalistic manner as a means of processing the grief he thought he had overcome.

Regarding the performance, the pacing in the beginning was much slower than necessary. Zellnik speaks to the audience as himself, giving more narrative information than poetry. The introduction is meant to slowly acclimate us to David's circumstances. However, it could have been more concise and delivered promptly and easily. Ultimately, it did its job. As someone with little knowledge of Brazil, I felt prepared for the rest of the performance.

Once Zellnik goes to Brazil and embodies the people he interviews, the pace starts to pick up. We are given an impromptu Brazilian lesson to help us understand the complexity of the language and then the interviews begin. When Zellnik embodies these characters, he is really "acting." Otherwise, he simply speaks to us, which, because his story is so documentarian, feels more truthful than putting on performative airs. Even his performances as other characters are loose and evocative, made to give us an idea of a character rather than a fully developed one. The performance feels like a true story being told by a friend.

Zellnik discusses the National Museum of Brazil fire in his performance. This museum, the oldest scientific institution in the country, was burned down in Brazil in 2018 due to a short circuit in the air conditioning, and the vast majority of its contents were destroyed. This event seemed important to Zellnik and the deceased George; however, I don't feel sufficient context was given to connect it with the rest of the story thematically. There is a loose idea of erasure and conservatism surrounding the telling of the incident. Still, it is unclear why this event was significant to these two people and its role in understanding and mourning George.

Because this performance is more like a documentary than a fictitious story, it occupies an interesting spot in the zeitgeist of solo theatre, a medium in which truth and fiction are historically interwoven. By opting to convey an entirely on-the-books true story, one sees more into the mind of David Zellnik as a person and less about his creative leanings. In the context of the performance, it sets him up as rather a "Queer Artist Everyman." It reminds us that these things can happen to any of us at any time. O TIME is then both a memorial and a look at the broader context of queer international life today.




"O TIME"

Written and Performed by David Zellnik

Directed by Danilo Gambini

March 17 and March 27, 2024



The 16th United Solo Festival

March 4 – April 28, 2024

Theatre Row

410 West 42nd (btw 9th and 10th Avenue)




 


Rita Frances Welch is… Wait, who’s asking? There are a few answers depending on the context. Rita is A) A New York playwright, actor, and director, B) The owner of 5 discrete copies of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, C) A force of nature, controlled by the tides and called to by the wind, disappearing and returning like the seasons. More material than their author, Rita’s plays have been produced by The Tank, Theatre X, Playwrights Performance, and Rogue Theatre Festival. They hold a B.F.A. in Acting from Shenandoah Conservatory, during which they studied under LAByrinth Theater’s Martha Wollner and Padraic Lillis. Rita’s writing functions as an experiment- a combination of characters in the petri dish of their world, their personal challenges and delusions in a vacuum, isolating for every variable but one: Human nature, which reveals itself every time. ritafranceswelch.com

                                  




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