Mars is an atypyical subject for a piece of theatre, but with entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and the Mars One project setting their sights on the planet, Medium Theatre Companies’ One Way Red is more timely than one might suppose. It’s the western world’s fascination with the red planet, what it represents, that centers the piece.
Leading a large team of installation artists, Set Designer Morgan Fitzpatrick Andrews and Special Effects/Costume Designer Rebecca Kanach have turned the space at the Panorama into a patchwork Martian dreamscape. The Mars here, constructed with endless panels, sheets, mirrors, multicolored lights, and unrecognizable odds and ends, doesn’t feel like the destination of multi-billion dollar private-sector programs, it’s the Mars that exists in a child’s dream, in the imagination. Together, conceiver, creator, and performer Dani Solomon and Director and Co-Creator Mason Rosenthal have woven a delicate and haunting sequence of scenes that explores what it’s like to take a trip into the unknown, from which you can’t come back.
The show is divided into two parts. For the first part the audience splits up between five “satellites,” small rooms carved out from the space, in which scenes happen simultaneously. In this way the audience cycles through five scenes, in no specific order. The scenes have varied vocabularies and worlds: there are hand-made puppets, pantomime, cloth scenery, phone calls, direct address and Martian jokes. The Mars (plural) of these scenes are equally different: in one Mars is welcoming, exoticized, and friendly; in another it feels inscrutable and threatening. These scenes, performed by Paloma Irizarry, Jenson Titus Lavallee, Kevin Meehan, Monica Wiles, and Eppchez!, complement each other perfectly, though some are stronger than others, and create a fantastical and celestial overture for the next section, which makes up the majority of the entire piece.
The second part is a journey to Mars through the imagination of isolated Millennial Sam (Dani Solomon). In between netflix shows and unanswered skype calls Sam deals with her loneliness by imagining herself as the first voyager to Mars. The scenes go back and forth between comic romps across the Martian landscape/ Sam’s room and moments of stillness that feel like the emptiness of space between Mars and Earth.
One Way Red is best when it succeeds in capturing a subtle melancholy that is hard to do. Going along with Sam on her expedition, I’m only unsatisfied that there isn’t more.
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, with no intermission.
One Way Red plays through September 25, 2016, at The 2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival performing at the Panorama – 5213 Grays Avenue, in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call the box office at (215) 413 1318, or purchase them online.