In layman’s terms String Theory is the attempt to prove a tiny vibrating string of energy is the building block and key to everything- our entire universe.
By Alix Cohen . . .
Loosely based on a real incident wherein three physicists on a train ride from Cambridge to London developed a theory of The Big Bang, playwright Carol Bugge’s mash-up is about as confusing as you can get vis a vis the science. Presumably in order to make it somewhat accessible, she uses examples of grief provoking alienation and infidelity to show how one emotional force affects others. Parallels are tenuous but at least that part of the play is comprehensible.
Act I: June (Robyne Parrish- subtle against all odds) has been in a train crash that took the life of her son. She suffers survivor guilt. Conservative, repressed cosmologist Husband George (Paul Schoeffler, also fine), is unable to share any grief he might have. June turns to friend/peer, particle physicist Rory, and has an affair. (Brian Richardson- not credible and where’s the working class British accent?) The couple don’t think George knows, but he does.
Between sniping, the three talk science. Two Ukrainians with exaggerated accents and speech patterns (Bonnie Black & Russell Saylor), who seem to recognize the physicists, enter and leave the compartment. Later, cartoon-like southern Americans will enter, speak and exit to similar unfathomable end. (Both pairs of intruders can control the motions of the threesome)
George is visited by his hero, Sir Isaac Newton, humming Bach’s “Minuet in G”, (Jonathan Hadley- perfectly pompous), June by hers, Marie Curie (Bonnie Back- excellent gravity) each with one foot in time-space continuum, one in contemporary relationship difficulties.
Act II is an excerpt of Act I with June married to cuckolded Rory who’s visited by his inspiration, Max Planck (Russell Saylor has his best turn here.) There’s also a chorus of “Food, Glorious Food” from the musical Oliver, a lot of crossover commenting about life preferences that breaks the fourth wall, some discussion of God versus science, and encouragement to forgive. Newton, Curie and Planck have their own sanguine points of view. The three protagonists seed an idea from which joint theory will bloom.
It’s as if various points of view, characters, and information was put in a hat, shaken out, then seasoned by what Carol Bugge thinks of as theater of the absurd. The piece is ponderous.
Director Alexa Kelly, saddled with an enormous and unbelievable train carriage, has her players hopping around seat to seat like Alice’s Mad Tea Party. Addressing the audience is made all the more ridiculous by characters stomping and thumping their chests.
While Elena Vannoni’s costumes for the dead scientists and the two men are spot on, June looks like 1969, the male Ukrainian’s wig resembles that of a ventriloquist dummy and the male southerner’s stomach appears literally inflated.
Photos by John Quilty
Strings Attached by Carole Bugge – Directed by Alexa Kelly
Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street https://bfany.org/theatre-row/. Through 10/1/22
*Featured Image: JONATHAN HADLEY, BONNIE BLACK, PAUL SCHOEFFLER, ROBYNE PARRISH, BRIAN RICHARDSON RUSSELL SAYLOR