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  •  REVIEW: BUYING TIME

      Buying Time
    Firm convictions

    "Buying Time" is a passionate story of once-idealistic lawyers who agonize over their own fading ideals when they have to choose between a rich client and a pro-bono environmental case.

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com


    "Buying Time" is not just a story about lawyers — it's a passionate story about guys who were wearing ponytails, making love and fighting injustice 30 years ago but are groping to find their own souls today.

    BUYING TIME
    Company: Hypothetical Theatre Company.
    Written by: Michael Weller.
    Directed by: Amy Feinberg.
    Cast: Nathan M. White, David Ari, Jeff Kronson, Jennifer Trimble, Patrick Boll, Lee Sellars, Tibor Feldman, Chuck Montgomery, Gene Terruso, Catherine Dowling, Jennifer Gibbs, Antonion del Rosario, Irene McDonnell, Andy Powers.

    Related links: Official site
      
    Max and Bennett joined a certain law firm in the southwestern U.S. because of its commitment to justice — it was famous in the business for its rule allowing each lawyer to do pro-bono (free) work for worthy causes. But the mentality is changing as young corporate lawyers come in without a commitment to cash, not causes. "All the young guys dream of Lamborghinis with wraparound seats and blonde shiksas wearing perfume with names like . . . 'Portfolio,' " laments Max.

    The firm finds itself in a bind when it reluctantly takes on a pro-bono case for an environmental organization trying to stop a large-scale illegal logging operation. The case offends one of the firm's richest clients, who threatens to take his mutlimillion-dollar account elsewhere. Members of the firm are divided — idealists want to stand up to the bullying, pragmatists say the firm can't afford to risk its financial base for one little non-paying client, and the corporate side is all business, deriding pro bono as "church work." One passing line tells you what the firm has become — they're afraid they'll lose a certain mine-collapse case, and you know they're not representing the deceased miners.

      Buying Time
    The dilemma settles on the shoulders of lead character Bennett (Lee Sellars), who at first tries to pass the case off to a low-level associate but later worries about whether he and his firm have lost their way. As the play continues, he is repeatedly challenged to stand up for what's right and fight for the soul of the law firm. And does he have it in him? Well, we'll soon find out.

    Michael Weller's play gets everything right. It's hard to write really well about a subject as seemingly wooden as a bunch of lawyers arguing, but Weller has put a lot of heart into it. The characters are all flesh and blood and all distinct, and the question of ideals that they're arguing over feels passionate and real, never a trumped-up plot device.

    The main characters are deftly acted by Sellars, Chuck Montgomery, Jennifer Gibbs, Catherine Dowling, Patrick Boll and others. And even the scene changes are given a lot of thought — a crowd descends on the stage with a flurry of activity, overlapping both the end of the previous scene and the start of the following scene.

    JANUARY 25, 2001
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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