Saturday, December 08, 2007
Despite playing God with the precise facts of Darwin's twenty-year delay in the publication of his theory of evolution, playwright Peter Parnell still can't manage to take the gloves off the science and get from the brain to the heart. Perhaps taking a cue from Santo Loquasto's forested set, Darwin (Michael Cristofer) spends much of his time rooted in place, being lectured to by his religious peers, the vicar (Timothy Deenihan) and God-fearing scientist Richard Owen (Peter Maloney), and then by his steadfast allies, the all-too-sensible Hooker (Michael Countryman) and his excitable ally, Tom Huxley (Neal Huff, far too tame to be "Darwin's bulldog"). When Darwin actually takes action, prodded by the unnervingly polite Alfred Wallace (an excellent Manoel Felciano) and internally questions the faith he needs to his marriage to Emma (Bianca Amato) and for his sick daughter, Anne (Paris Rose Yates), the play starts to get down into that godless mud; unfortunately, director David Esbjornson ups the melodrama of a sick child and a lightning-punctuated séance (not science) too often to stay there. The one flawless moment: Darwin's attempt to pray, a thrillingly quiet moment of reflection from Mr. Cristofer that goes a long way to sell the good idea that Trumpery surely must have started with.