Source Theatre Festival 2015: ‘Science and Soulmates’ 10-Minute Plays

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Quadratic equations and heart palpitations dominate Science and Soulmates, one third of the 2015 Source Festival’s series of ten minute plays. These six short plays succeed at what few theatres (or laboratories) have ever been able to do: make science sexy. During the course of these six ten minute plays, audiences can expect a stimulated mind, heart, and… well, let’s just stick with the mind and heart. In the order they’re performed:

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Math: A Short Play About Heidegger

Written by T. Adamson and Directed by Nick Martin, Math aptly sets the tone for the evening: quirky, funny, and intellectual with a surprising emotional kick. The premise is simple: a Bear (Devon Ross) wants to learn match from the Mathematician (Seth Rosenke, who quite literally wears several hats in the production) in order to impress a pretty girl (Farah Lawal Harris) who also likes math. The problem? As a Bear, he can only learn Bear Math. He needs to be transformed into an Unqualified Being to learn Unqualified Math. Heidegger aficionados (all three of you) will veritably squirm with delight at all the tongue-in-cheek philosophical allegories. The rest of the audience will chuckle at the Bear threatening to eat the Wizard, and smile at the notion of mathematicians being consulted about romantic matters.

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Dissection

One can imagine the 3 AM conversation that this sprang out of: Hey, what if dissecting a relationship was, like, an actual dissection? Stephen Spotswood’s script blooms into a touching and sexy play about long time lovers Maggie (Jennifer Osborn) and Jennifer (Aaren Keith). Maggie is now a medical doctor, and in a stroke of theatrical magic, literally dissects her still very animated ex and examines key components of the life and death of their relationship. Staged smartly by Director Jenna Duncan, Dissection gives theatrical form to the universal experience that hindsight, especially when it comes to relationships, often reveals that the things that so damaged us weren’t really so bad after all – but that it’s not so easy to recapture lost love.

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Ball Drop

Director Bridget Grace Sheaff brings the strongest direction of the evening, maneuvering her cast with expert dexterity across the challenging tennis-court space and utilizing an assertive design (including a particularly luscious costume design) to create an extra-planetary atmosphere. This is crucial, because Rich Espey’s script is the most obtuse of Science & Soulmates, located in an uncertain time and place and who’s most articulate character is a talking stick. That being said, much credit is due to the actors –Zenith (Frank Cervarich), Analemma (Tori Boutin), and the aforementioned Time Stick (Kimberlee Wolfson), who all bring a depth and a breadth to their characters that belies the apparent lack of given circumstances in the text. It is clear that they know the rules of the world they operate in – a world where night and day rule for ages at a time before giving way to the other – and that makes it okay for the audience not to know everything.

Both Sides, Now

Talk about needing more space. In Elizabeth Archer’s hilarious sendup of those couples who are just too close, “He” (Frank Cervarich) and “She” (Jennifer Osborn) are literally joined at the hip. Against the wishes of their crack medical team, which includes a doctor (Aaren Keith), a surgeon (Devon Ross), and a therapist (Hilary Kelly), He and She would very much like to be separated now, even if that does mean She will only have one leg and He only his left arm. Underneath the Beckett-esque humor, director Jenna Duncan finds a core that is quite poignant, as it becomes clear that She may want the separation more than He (all breakups are “mutual”, right?). When is the ending of a relationship mere plastic surgery, and when is it medical necessity? Both Sides, Now answers this question with joyous absurdity. The staging of the piece sometimes becomes crowded, although this has more to do with the obstacle course of a set and some unfortunately shoddy construction on the part of Source itself (poor Ms. Kelly almost killed herself on a broken step). But Director Jenna Duncan manages to fit in some nice tableaus amidst the ruins, and her cast performs wonderfully.

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Limit: A Function of Word and Thought

Alison Donnelly’s script is the most intense of the bunch, set as it is in the immediate aftermath of a terrible car crash. With beautiful, lyrical language, Limit expands the second after the crash and stages it as a retrospective of the relationship between Vi (Farah Lawal Harris) and Ef (Seth Rosenke). Director Nick Martin stages a fine ballet of a piece that presents one of the few truly happy couples in the whole series – they just happen to be on the verge of death. What’s Source trying to tell us, exactly…?

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The Physics of Now

Directed by Bridget Grace Sheaff and written by Alex Dremann, the final play in Science & Soulmates ends in much the same way the series began: a romance wrapped in a thick layer of science and spiced with a lot of laughs. Jake (Frank Cervarich, in his eighteenth performance of the evening) and Dagney (Tori Boutin) are starry eyed scientists all set to do the nasty on the lab table while unlocking the secret of time travel, until their future selves (Kimberlee Wolfson and Michael Sigler, respectively) burst forth and warn them against falling in love, lest they end up as the bitter and deranged couple now seen. An outrageous commentary on the awkward interplay between romantic love and professional ambition, The Physics of Now was a perfect way to end an evening that made science a little cooler, and romance a lot scarier.

Science & Soulmates plays through June 28, 2015 as part of the 2015 Source Festival playing at Source – 1835 14th Street NW, in Washington, D.C. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online.

LINKS

Source Theatre Festival 2015: Mistakes & Media: 10-Minute Plays by Robert Michael Oliver.

Source Theatre Festival 2015: ‘Love & Botany: 10-Minute Plays by Robert Michael Oliver.

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