|Rachael Hip-Flores, Isaiah Tanenbaum
Photo: Justin Hoch
The neuroscientist leading the DEINDE project (the delightful Matthew Trumbull) proceeds to explain the rules, which are straightforward: when using DEINDE, think only of work; do not keep the connection live outside of work; do not use DEINDE to communicate with each other; and do not use DEINDE to access the world online. (This being theatre and this being science fiction, we know that all four rules will be broken; the fun is in learning how.)
Since DEINDE is new technology, the scientists are allowed to decide whether or not they want to participate. The younger scientists are eager to get started, while the oldest scientist declines the opportunity. Whether he is wise or close-minded, too much in love with the past or right to distrust the future, becomes one of the many intriguing questions in this play. I'm still not sure of the answer.
Schulenburg has a deep understanding of how people think and feel, and he writes convincing characters full of deeply human contradictions, as epitomized when one of the scientists becomes violently enraged and switches, frighteningly quickly, from apologetic to blaming to dangerous and back again. While the physicality of the scene as staged could be more effective, it is nevertheless chilling because the violent man's behavior and emotional changes are so real.
In DEINDE, Schulenburg explores technology, relationships, that old standby hubris, and, oh yeah, the meaning of life. That's a lot to cover in a two-act play, and he does it with humor, compassion, and some gorgeous dialogue. There's a monologue spoken by a character who has just learned that her life is going to change profoundly; it is a thing a beauty. In the emotional sense, the monologue is full of fear and joy and humanity. In the theatrical sense, it is full of movement and character development. Schulenburg takes on a lot, and he delivers. (Schulenburg also knows how to take care of business. DEINDE begins with a great deal of exposition, which could be deadly if not well-presented. Schulenburg is wily enough to have the person delivering the exposition be a bit of a silly character, excited, overenthusiastic, and amusing. The character is so entertaining that the exposition just slips on in. A spoonful of sugar does make the medicine go down.)
DEINDE is intelligently directed by Heather Cohn, who mines the emotions and themes of the plays, guides her wonderful cast to wonderful performances, and manages the traffic of changing scenes in a way that actually adds to the play's momentum (this may sound like a trivial thing to mention, but badly staged scene changes can damage a show); I would only wish that some of the tricky sight lines had been dealt with better. Isaiah Tanenbaum, an actor who is always a pleasure to watch, reaches new heights here in a very demanding role. Sol Marina Crespo makes much of a relatively small part; Rachael Hip-Flores starts a little weakly but ends up giving a strong performance; and Alyssa Simon nails the monologue discussed above.
The Tony Award nominations were announced today. What a pity that they are limited to Broadway when there is work of this caliber being done just across the river.
(press ticket, second row center)