The worst thing one can say about Time Is the Mercy of Eternity, a new sampler of one-acts by Deb Margolin, is that there’s not enough of it. Nevertheless, Margolin’s torqued, lyrical voice inhabits her characters so vividly and reaches so insistently for the wounds of contemporary living that these brief glimpses end up more than sufficient, like a cameo with an opera inside. Margolin covers a lot of social ground, examining suicide bombing and domestic violence, death in Iraq and the politics of furniture stores. Throughout, though, her characters are most sharply marked by the isolation that comes with being a person, trying desperately to find a way out of their own minds and, with one glorious exception, failing. That lone success occurs at the end of the title piece, featuring Lisa Kron as the grandly eccentric Woman in Bed: “I feel like such an outsider, but in a way it’s delicious! Like a thief, a renegade!”
These lines could serve as an epigraph to the entire evening, and Kron delivers them with a canny mix of abandon and control. She explores Margolin’s dazzling, harmed creations with ruthlessly empathetic commitment. Curzon Dobell, likewise, brings a haunting humanity to his monologue as a bus driver haphazardly falling into a life of suicidal terrorism. Despite some unfocused scenes in the longest piece, a portrait of an actor on the verge of dying at her boyfriend’s hands, the production as a whole remains a testament to the power of passionate utterance.