2019 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Dust’

Don’t believe your program! Dust is not, in fact, a collection of surreal daydreams to trip your imagination. It is a thought-provoking drama worthy of your attention.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and on planet Mercury, lesbian couple Anne and Cass are faced with a serious moral dilemma: Do they fulfill their duty as Earth’s early warning system and inform the human race of impending doom, or do they spare their fellow man the knowledge, distress and possible mayhem of knowing they have but two days to live?

It’s a question you pose at a party. The kind of question that sparks lively conversation and debate, but that you can walk away from with a smile, whispering to your partner that you can’t believe Amber is such a naïve optimist about the human race. But, what about when the topic is abortion? Or gay marriage? Or climate change? And what if (you know, hypothetically), there were real life-and-death consequences to these answers?

This is what playwright Sara Emsley has accomplished with such grace in the span of just 45 minutes. She gently leads us from philosophical discourse to harsh reality before we even realize our hearts are pounding and we are feverishly thinking, “oh my god, what would I do?!” It’s so easy to take bold stances when snug and warm in the safety of your living room (or spaceship), but so much more difficult when imminent death is knocking at your airlocked door. Emsley gives us a healthy dose of reality in a way that is truly felt and understood.

Kudos to actors Rachel Jones (Cass) and Emily Dwornik (Anne) for creating the distinct and compelling personalities necessary to bring Emsley’s superb script to life. The tough, pragmatic Anne was convincing as an ex-Army soldier and caretaker, which led to some heartbreaking moments as control slips from her fingers. Emotional and optimistic Cass deftly kept hope alive in a hopeless situation.

Set, lighting and sound were very effective, especially in a limited space. I loved the space console. Director Ethan Friedson kept pace on point, but there were some blocking concerns. A lot of the action took place on the floor, so if you want to see the entire show you will want to sit in the front row – I couldn’t see the faces of the actors from my third-row seat during some key moments. I would also urge director and actors to up the physical affection between the two lovers a notch – an over-abundance of forehead kisses can go from affectionate to patronizing pretty fast.

Those are simple and fixable issues. This script is a winner, this performance will keep you thinking well into the night, and you should definitely add this show to your Fringe must-see list.

Running Time: 45 minutes, with no intermission.

Dust plays through July 27, 2019, at Riverside Baptist Church, 699 Maine Avenue SW, Washington, DC. For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or purchase online.

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