The Crane's intimate black box theater is entirely lined with blue plastic and strewn with plastic bags and bottles. Into this arena comes Ralph Wiley (Nicole Goeden) to face a tribunal comprised of an angel (Katie Kaufmann), a sick sea bird (Mairead Koehler), and Roger Waters (who Wikipedia tells me is a co-founder of a band called Pink Floyd, that I've totally heard of, played by Bethany McHugh). Accusations are followed by arguments as Ralph tries to win the case. And it's to the play's (and the performers') credit that we do feel some empathy for Ralph. Was he an evil genius, or just a simple scientist who enjoyed discovery? The tribunal was only really ever going to rule one way, and Act II takes us to Ralph's punishment, or afterlife, or something.
All of the garbage is cleared away at intermission, replaced by a cork floor representing an island. Easter Island to be precise. There Ralph is joined by an enthusiastic Easter Islander (also played by Mairead Koehler) and Robert Oppenheimber (Bethany McHugh again), who was also tried and sentenced for being "the father of the atomic bomb." The three are occasionally visited by the Angel as they try to figure out what they're doing there.
|Ralph Wiley on Easter Island (Nicole Goeden with
Mairead Koehler and Bethany McHugh, photo courtesy of Swandive)
Wikepedia also tells me that "canopic jars were used by the ancient Egyptians during the mummification process to store and preserve the viscera of their owner for the afterlife" (I love a play that sends me to google to find out more). So Ralph is destined to carry his heart in the canopic jar of his creation (hilariously represented by a Sweet Martha's Cookie bucket, spoiler alert). I'm not any closer to answer the questions above, but maybe it's progress just to ask them. And this play is fun and entertaining while still dealing with these sobering and deep thoughts.
I'll leave you with this note from the directors:
Tackling Justin's script was never about finding answers, instead what we found was resolve. Everyone that worked on this show has left fundamentally altered, open to making significant life changes in the hopes that we can change the future and start to redirect the path we are on. Like its medieval cousins, this morality play is a warning. Rationality will not save us, but perhaps collective will can...