In Time Limits Dropped on Easter Sunday, presented by Wonder Jones Productions for the Toronto Fringe Festival 2021, four members of a bereavement group meet via video conference. Though they are separated by pandemic measures, this meeting has some surprisingly intimate connection in store for them.
In the early moments, the awkwardness of their interactions rings true to anyone’s first video conferencing experience. The stilted, performative small talk is a very relatable sort of cringe. As they warm to the interaction, a new software is introduced into their bereavement—an application that takes an uploaded photo of a deceased loved one and animates it.
Anyone who has seen an episode of Black Mirror can anticipate the psychological catastrophe that might be in store for the participants. When the technology gets glitchy, the animated videos of the dead loved ones become sentient. As the story gets going, it surprised me by exploring reconnection and wrongs-set-right instead of the cautionary tale about emotionally manipulative technology that I was expecting.
There is some overwhelming initial confusion and terror as seven characters—four alive, three re-animated—try to work through the strangeness of the situation. As they break off into private chats, the piece delves into specific family dynamics. In her script, Erin Jones balances a plethora of ideas and thematic concerns—racism, classism, guilt, regret, redemption, comeuppance—while still giving the hour-long piece room to breath.
Though the technology itself isn’t the point, I still fount it difficult to suspend my disbelief that an authentic life can be re-created in cyberspace from a photo. There is, obviously, a mystical element here, but it starts to feel muddled once the reality manipulation across time aspect of it is revealed.
The cast—Meg Gibson, Georgia Grant, Olivia Jon, Erin Jones, Dayjan Lesmond, Cate McKim, Twaine Ward, Jamie Joong Watts and Paula Wilkie—brings a sense of warmth and urgency, though it is disconcerting that only one character out of them all remains unsympathetic. Ward’s performance convinces us that Trevor is a believable sleaze, but we are never shown any vulnerable humanity in him.
Time Limits Dropped on Easter Sunday has some genuinely thrilling moments, a lot of interesting family drama to unpack and a few genuinely poignant interactions, but I couldn’t fully invest in this heartfelt sci-fi concept with the fanciful wish-fulfilment fantasy at its core.