THE 3rd FLOOR is made up of some of the funniest people in Portland. With their hilarious, weird, and impressively geeky sketch comedy shows, the troupe has, in a whole lot of ways, set the bar for theatrical comedy in Portland. Fortunately for us, they've set that bar pretty damn high; unfortunately for them, they've set it high enough that, this time, they've failed to clear it.
On the surface, Killing Time sounds like a great idea—a full-length comedy that brings together many of the 3rd Floor's talented members, including Andrew Harris, Ted Douglass, Jason Rouse, and Kevin-Michael Moore. While the 3rd Floor's shows frequently involve half-hidden plot threads and witty callbacks, this is the first time they've set about crafting a play-length narrative. The potential is definitely there—I can think of few groups of actors I'd rather spend two hours with—but Killing Time flounders.
Killing Time's time-travel story—in which small-time crook Johnny Donovan (John Killeen) bumps around the space-time continuum from 1928 to 1978, clashing with film noir-type gangsters and eager punk rockers—crawls from the get-go, and its plot points are neither original nor all that comedic. By its second half, things get looser, stranger, and funnier—a brief but catastrophic trip to the year 3000 is one of the show's highlights, as are a series of exchanges between Sid Vicious (Harris) and Stephen Hawking (Jason Keller). But the thing never gels: While the cast finds laughs where they can, the rambly script (by Douglass, Moore, Rouse, and director Tony St. Clair) stretches in weird, confusing directions. For every bit of cleverness, there are a few too-easy bits of sentimentality; for every witty back and forth, there's a superfluous musical number; for every clever scene (no, really: Sid Vicious shouting at Stephen Hawking? Yes!), there's a distractingly high number of darkened scene transitions and set swaps.
It's hard to find faults in any of the individual performances, but as a whole, Killing Time just doesn't work. The idea of a full-length narrative production by the 3rd Floor is, still, a great one—and I'm guessing that at some point, they'll stage one that's a must-see. What you don't need to see, though, is them working out the kinks with Killing Time.