Road trippin’ and the meaning of life


The Purpose of Matter in the Universe


Written and Performed by Joe Hutcheson

Directed by D. B. Levin

Midtown International Theatre Festival ( for showtimes)

Stage Left Studio, 440 W. 37th Street

Equity showcase (through August 4th)

Review by Michael D. Jackson


Originally developed and presented at the University of Florida, Joe Hutcheson brings his autobiographical one-man show, The Purpose of Matter in the Universe, to New York with a joyful new production. This thoughtful and well-crafted play takes Joe on a journey by car across the U.S. from California to Florida. He has decided to go to graduate school and after living in California all his life, the drive across the country represents a great division from the overly familiar to the very unfamiliar.


Everything before this change seems to be lost and everything after it is unknown, exciting, and frightening. Joe finds himself, quite rapidly, experiencing a nervous breakdown. This life change is rattling his world, and by looking back on the road trip with great humor, he allows the audience to re-experience his rite of passage as if it were happening to us all for the first time.


Along the way we meet several family characters, friends and strangers met in bars and motels of small Midwestern towns. Hutcheson’s poetic prose vividly paints a picture of the landscapes, characters and situations as he both narrates them and acts them out. He is good at transforming from a characterized version of himself, to his stepmother, to a drag queen, to a ladybug.


Enhancing the production considerably is a multimedia presentation of pictures that aid each sequence and topic along with a particularly effective sound design. An artistic colorful array of pills appears on the screen above when Joe tells us about his stepmother’s multiplicity of medications, scenes of the various landscapes encountered appear on cue, a pallet of light bulbs glowing represents Las Vegas, close-ups of the ladybug and other symbolic images keep the visual variety of the production vibrant.


Joe himself wears a simple jeans and t-shirt outfit with a patterned shirt layered over it, which he puts to good use in different ways to help suggest his several characters. Joe (and no doubt his director D. B. Levin) keep the 75 minute show moving along at a good pace. The visual variety, whether it be from the projections or Joe’s many uses of a single stool, is quite remarkable for what is a tiny playing area. The play is always in motion and each event of the script leads to the next, occasionally referencing back to earlier characters and situations to make a good comic punch later on.


This production is wholly entertaining, well conceived, written and directed. It explores universal fears that come with making great changes in life and although it is Joe’s personal experience, he hits on ideas that we have all encountered to some degree and we are completely drawn in. The end result is a radiant joy and a happiness to be alive.


Box Score:


Writing: 2

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Sets: 2

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 2


Copyright 2007 Michael D. Jackson


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