Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Antlia Pneumatica

Anne Washburn is at it again.  I did not see her last play, Mr. Burns, which has been described as leaving you "dizzy with the scope and dazzle of its ideas".  Antlia Pneumatica seems to be a repeat of that theme as it relates to memory, dreams, and the universe.   Ms. Washburn seems to be a non-linear writer.  Concept is king.  Ethereal is the theme.  Wonder and mystery loom large.

Nina (Annie Parisse) has a family house in the middle of nowhere Texas.  Friends from eons ago (i.e. college 25+ years ago) gather to bury one of their crew.  She has a sister, Liz (April Matthis) although color blind casting makes that fact less than obvious unless you are paying attention. Amusingly quirky friends - cute, cuddly, and gay Len (Nat Dewolf) and neurotic contrarian Ula (Maria Striar) seem to be devoted to her although it is unclear when the last time they actually saw each other.  Nina's drop dead gorgeous ex-boyfriend Adrian (drop-dead gorgeous Rob Campbell) may or may not have visited the compound of friends after a 14 year estrangement.

Nothing is truly explained.  We watch in linear time but the story is non-linear.  Time is flexible. The mind plays tricks on these friends as dreams and memories abound as they gather to bury their friend Sean.  Pies are made but not baked, Breakfast is discussed but not eaten, Children are heard, but unseen (Recorded voices of Casey and Wally are played offstage).  The ethereal tale comes to a climax of confusion and wonder when Bama (Crystal Finn) shows up (one assumes her name is an homage to her accent) and proclaims her own tale about Adrian who couldn't possibly have been there if it were true. This goes along with a separate mystery of a friend of Adrian who may or may not be alive and a successful real estate guy in Nevada.

At one point, Nina and Adrian have an extended hushed and dream-like conversation in the darkness of the family's Pecan orchard, the stage lit only by a multitude of tiny stars in the Texas sky.  (Kudos Tyler Micoleau - lighting, Rachel Hauck, Sets) and it is only then you begin to realize that Ms. Washburn's play isn't what it seemed all along.  It's mind-bendingly better - in a heavenly and dizzying sort of way.  Don't wait for the 3 pecans to drop to head over to Playwrights Horizons.