``Oh my God!'' people shriek. ``I saw matter being formed!''
But no one can care much about these cosmological events when a play attaches less meaning to them than one finds in a clown's act, except to make people laugh at the meaninglessness of eternity from the point of view of the human condition.
The director, in his first return since his devastating stroke in 1984 to the lyrical style of drama that made him famous, has created beautiful, impressionistic vignettes to watch: thus people fall into black holes; someone carries a tree limb on which are hung a line of crystal goblets that can't help clinking with the slightest movement; and a leaf of silver foil drops down from the ceiling to be caught and blown into a myriad of star-like objects.
What does it all mean? Scientific facts about ``singularities'' (where the laws of physics don't apply) may indeed be interesting; but they are no stand-ins for the laws of drama. Without some kind of big-bang conflict theatre can fail to be compelling.
Nevertheless, an able crew of actors, including Roger Babb, Alyssa Bresnahan, Robbie McCauley, Tina Shepard, and Paul Zimet, sang some hummable songs, danced, mimed dances of planets and subatomic particles, and declaimed all sorts of scientific factoids, poetry, or prose. (At one point, one character simply repeated ``Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.'') In the two most touching vignettes, first with two women then repeated with two men, one actor expressed the wonderment of the cosmos while the other, eyes closed, embraced the one enthralled. These scenes were poignant and felt as if they should be meaningful; but they were not dramatic, and were therefore stillborn insofar as being able to engage the emotions fully.
Clever instrumental music and sound effects (sometimes in danger of being more interesting to watch and listen to than the actors) by Richard Peaslee, Gina Leishman, and J.A. Dean included an accordion, an African rain stick, a glass harp, gongs, synthesizers, a trombone, a ukulele, and a wind machine.
The striking spectacles, dramatically lighted by Katy Orrick, took place within black walls decorated simply by Jun Maeda. Thus, an orb, perhaps the moon, crossed the stage imperceptibly while planets and asteroids were thrown amidst the action. Wonderful things were done with fabrics, both for costumes by Mary Brecht and for the giant flags and gossamer curtains that billowed about.
The play was labeled ``A work in progress.'' Therefore, a critical review is perhaps not appropriate. It is to be hoped that in continuing to work on this striking piece, the director will take more responsibility for dramatizing the action. Then all the provocative and visually beautiful things going on would seem less like gilding a non-existent lily.
Copyright 1995 Marshall Yaeger
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