Just in Time: A Cli-Fi Fable – Other Than We Presented by the Earth Institute
By Marcina Zaccaria
Other Than We, by Karen Malpede, journeys from the hospital to a dome, where even inter-species life can take its first breath. It’s a world where emotion and empathy, knowing, being, and feeling can be held to the highest standard of analytic thought. Sustenance and survival are part of the mission of the refugees in exile.
Seeing Other Than We proved to be more than a scholarly exercise. Columbia University’s Earth Institute perfectly framed the event, explaining that their goal is to provide work that holds to their values of Communication and Sustainability, in recognition of the planet.
Other Than We’s women are inspired, curious, determined, and so clearly destined to change the world. Beth Malone, as Michelle, remains so deeply invested in her scientific search, continually sharing her beliefs with Eve, played by Emily Fury Daly. The truth is in the spaces in-between. Their ability to create life is something beyond fascination. Sterilization is contrasted with the bloody, difficult process of birth. At the lab, they combine intrigue with the wonder of being a scientist; there is something truthful and awe-inspiring to their work.
Theatre Three Collaborative’s George Bartenieff, as Opa, is a mighty listener, reliable and separate from the world of the hospital or science lab. He makes his presence known, and is such a reassuring support to Eve. His poetic sentiments are elegant and memorable. Tanaka, portrayed by Tommie J. Moore, is equally invested in the work. His dramatic, long monologue towards the end of the play is an uplifting moment.
That being said, viewing this performance on Zoom verged on tedious. We hear the script, including clarity of voice and diction. We need the plot points to sail through and win. The extreme close-ups showed every wrinkle of the face, yet audience members are still longing for the days when we can see three dimensional figures in space, soaring from one corner of a black box into the light.
Other Than We boasted some extraordinary images, when it played at La MaMa from November 21 – December 1, 2019. Without movement and design, we lose the magic and every sense of wholeness that I’m certain must have been present in the earlier production. When Columbia University’s Earth Institute added images of the bird from that production to the screen, it felt more like a look back, rather than a revelation of video.
Despite this flaw, Karen Malpede’s Other Than We is an obvious success. It has a large, open joy through the suffering of survival. The worlds traveled to are splendid and intricate, and the language is plentiful. More majestic than jubilant, it has a gusto that would be difficult to reduce or dismiss.
Other Than We played for one performance on Sunday, July 26 from 10:30AM – 12:30PM on Zoom. Additional information on the Initiative on Communication and Sustainability at Columbia University’s Earth Institute is available on the web at: http://j.mp/sustainwhatlive.