Saturday, July 30, 2005

First "Dice" Review

The premiere of "Dice" was a huge success by anyone's measure last night. The venue was standing-room only, even after the building was scoured for portable seating surfaces. If you're planning on coming tonight (shows at 7:30 and 10:30), or tomorrow (7:00) - get there early for front and center seating.

The play consists of 6 thematically-connected one-act plays, an approach that allows for entertainingly diverse approaches to the impact of Albert Einstein and his work on contemporary society. The authors deserve credit for presenting challenging, yet utterly non-didactic, work centered on theories such as relativity and gravity.

The first presentation, "Gravity" (by Chris Plante), was probably the most challenging for the audience. Two men in bathrobes (Tyson Brody and Jesse Smith) have waited all night in the eaves of a chapel to creatively disrupt the wedding of one's ex-wife. Their fear of falling is elaborated by one's fear that the "ground will rise up" and impact them. As the play ends, they face the prospect of harm rising up from below.

This segment was challenging not only because of the elaborate set-up which required an attentive audience to pick up on, but also because the acoustics of the space enhanced the difficulty of understanding the characters' accents. A more acoustically-friendly space would have allowed the audience to better appreciate the great work of the actors, and to better understand the well-written material.

The second presentation, "Matter" (by Sam Ryan) was the only one to deal directly with the atomic legacy of Einstein. In it, two Princeton students (Tielor McBride and Ryan Walker) are planning to vandalize the home of one of their professors, in an attempt to be heard in protest against her pro-nuclear-bombing views. Upon pondering the irony that the home is also the historical residence of Albert Einstein, however, on of them backs away from the project, while the other seems freshly emboldened. The struggle of technology and human action takes place on the sparse yet functional set (designed by Tielor McBride and made by Chris Plante), calling to mind Yeats' observation, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

The first of two monologues followed. In "Relativity" (by Chris Plante), Sam Ryan plays a precocious victim of child abuse. Plante's brilliant writing manages to get the audience laughing out loud while he chokes us up with the heart-breaking sadness of a boy's lonely struggle to cope with his father's abuse and his mother's absence. This is strong stuff, and it perfectly fits the one-act format, where the combination of humor and horror can be poured on in full measure without drowning the audience. (As an aside, sitting in a jam-packed room, watching your son talk about being horribly abused by his father, is a unique Oedipal experience.)

"Infinity" (by Sam Ryan) was probably the most accessible of the one-acts - a classic break-up scene, with shades of Hemingway's wonderful short story, "The End of Something". The problem of infinity, which presents the impossibility of crossing a distance which can be infinitely halved and therefore never bridged, provides the context for a young man (Tielor McBride) to see that he cannot bridge the distant between himself and his soon-to-be-ex girlfriend (Lizzy Suenram). Well-acted and sincere, the play presents the inability to truly connect with another human being.

"Time" (by Chris Plante) was a fresh look at the tired genre of monkey and trainer relationships. Eliza Hornig did a superb job of portraying an exasperated but loving mother-figure. Had her presentation been any less compelling, though, she would have been blown off the stage by Jesse Smith's talking monkey. This play gave the audience laugh-out-loud lines while presenting the problem of a parent watching her "child" grow up and leave her. The final line, "You are my man in the yellow hat," is a poignant stab in the heart of any proud parent watching a child move onward. (Or is that projection?)

A janitor (Ryan Walker) in Weston, Missouri, delivers a monologue in "Uncertainty" (by Sam Ryan). The audience hung on every word of this enthralling meditation based on the fact that Einstein's brain was kept for many years in the cabinet of a doctor in Weston. It was a compelling and beautiful piece, presenting a complex character dealing with a deep sadness.

Is it possible for an author's father to review his work fairly? Of course not. But my enjoyment of the evening was mirrored by the enthusiastic reception of the overflow crowd. As a father, the pride and joy I felt at watching Sam's pride and joy was an experience I'll treasure for a long, long time.

Go see it if you can.


Blogger pomegranate said...

yay for your son's play!!

8/01/2005 7:00 AM  

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