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Regional Reviews: Other Regions

The Time Machine
Hale Centre Theatre, Utah
Review by Gil Benbrook

Tamari Dunbar and Kadyn Ballard
Photo courtesy Hale Centre Theatre
There have been countless adaptations or reworkings of classic novels produced for film, TV, and the stage, including H. G. Wells' famous 1895 science fiction novel "The Time Machine." Wells' book had two fairly faithful film adaptations, TV and radio versions, and was the catalyst for numerous works that touch upon time travel. It was also the basis for the 1979 book by Karl Alexander, "Time After Time," which was adapted into the film of the same name that found Wells having created a time machine that he uses to track Jack the Ripper across time. Michael D. Fox has taken Wells' famous book and turned it into a new piece that stays true to the details in Wells' novel and also features Wells as a character as well as has a female-centric plot. This tightly paced dramatic adventure is having its world premiere at the Hale Centre Theatre in Sandy, Utah. Fox's script and characters are intriguing, and the direction, cast, and technical aspects are superb.

There are many fun twists and turns in the plot so I'll try to reveal as little as possible. The show begins in modern times when a mysterious box arrives at the home of Helene Briggs. When her 15-year-old granddaughter Skye and her son-in-law Bradley open the box, they discover a handwritten manuscript of "The Time Machine" that forces Helen to reveal the truth about her past as well as to realize that the future of the world is in danger. Together, Helene and Skye set off on a journey through time to save the world.

Fox's script does a wonderful job of pulling in details of Wells' book and staying true to some of the elements of "The Time Machine," while crafting characters and a plot that are entirely original and continually engaging. By shifting the focus to Helene and her granddaughter, it also puts females front and center in this sci-fi adventure tale and places the future of the world entirely on their shoulders, which is a welcome change from usual male-dominated action-adventure stories. Fox is also successful in finding ways to weave the past and the present together, adding a big dose of romance to the plot and incorporating actual people like Wells and Albert Einstein into the script. While there is much to love in Fox's play, including a poignant ending that may find you shedding a few tears, there are a few loose plot points that don't get tied up completely by the end as well as a few things that don't exactly make sense. However, those are just a few quibbles in an otherwise wonderfully plotted play and I'm sure Fox will find a way to resolve those details, or explain them better, if he plans to have this produced elsewhere.

The Hale production is double cast and the cast I saw, which performs on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays, are all excellent. Tamari Dunbar and Kadyn Ballard make a wonderful time-trotting duo as Helene and Skye, with portrayals that are realistic and grounded. Becca Ingram is equally good as the younger Helene in a performance that's spirited and authentic. As Gregory Whitman, Helene's school friend, Abrin Tinney is strong and forceful. Jarod D. Lewis is charming and spirited as H.G. Wells. Roger Dunbar is warm and sensible as Bradley, Skye's father, and Taylor Seth Hall is wonderful and funny as Albert Einstein. Zac Zumbrunnen and Julie Silvestro are delightful and bright as a wealthy couple who host Helene, Wells, and Bradley for an evening of storytelling, and Silvestro also has a lot of fun as a second character who factors into the time-traveling plot.

Dave Tinney's direction finds the right balance to allow for the action-driven, fun fantasy elements of the script to shine brightly while ensuring the emotional moments resonate and linger. The creative elements are exceptional, with Jenn Taylor's scenic design using a few set pieces to create clearly defined locations with curved, movable panels that tie into the time-traveling plot; the time machine is a wonderful homage to the one in the 1960 film. Jaron Kent Hermansen's video and projection designs add elements of fantasy, using realistic elements to help flesh out the various locales in the show. The beautiful character-specific costumes by Peggy Willis cross the various time periods in the play and Jaron Kent Hermansen's lighting is immersive. Fifteen-year-old Cameron Dietlein's original music score provides an evocative soundscape for the production that plays into and echoes the dramatic and adventure plot elements in the script.

The Time Machine is a well-crafted, time-bending, updated homage to H.G. Wells' classic novel and an original, fun and engaging puzzle of a play.

The Time Machine runs through July 20, 2024, at Hale Centre Theatre, 9900 South Monroe Street, Sandy Utah. For tickets and information, please visit or call 801-984-9000

Written by Michael D. Fox
Inspired By The Novel By H.G. Wells
Producer: Mark Dietlein
Director: Dave Tinney
Production Stage Manager: Megan Johnson
Scenic Design: Jenn Taylor
Costume Design: Peggy Willis
Lighting Design: Jaron Kent Hermansen
Associate Lighting Design: Emma Belnap
Sound Design: Michelle Ohumukini
Associate Sound Design: Kristin Tenney
Properties Design: Danna Barney
Hair & Make-up Design: Trisha Ison
Video/Projection Design: Jaron Kent Hermansen
Automation Design: Nick Herring
Fight Choreographer: Anton Moss
Music Composer: Cameron Dietlein
Stage Manager: Susan Kupferer, Heather Wadley
Assistant Stage Manager: Liberty Miller, Skip Mulcock
Automation: Tom Hohl, Nate Jennings. Alena Rodriguez

Bradley Mason: Roger Dunbar
Mr. Backman/Albert Einstein: Taylor Seth Hall
Skye Mason: Kadyn Ballard
Helene Briggs: Tamari Dunbar
Young Helene Briggs: Becca Ingram
William Morris/Man: Zac Zumbrunnen
Gregory Whitman: Abrin Tinney
Mrs. Morris/Presenter: Julie Silvestro
H.G. Wells: Jarod D. Lewis