Saturday, August 28, 2021

"The Uncertainty Principle" at Open Eye Theatre

Live performances at Open Eye Theatre's charming and intimate stage in South Minneapolis returned this week. Whether it's one of their work, or one of the guest artists they support, a show at Open Eye is always going to be unique and interesting. Teresa Mock's solo piece The Uncertainty Principle fits the bill. It's a memory play, not just about her memory, but also her father Paul's, a Vietnam vet. In this funny, poignant, moving, and very personal play, she explores the idea of memory, legacy, and multi-generational trauma. And since this is Open Eye (formerly Figure) Theatre, there is also puppetry to help tell the story. Only three performances of this moving piece remain (click here for details).

Teresa frames her story as a road trip across the country, which she did a lot as a kid with her dad, talking about cars, music, and quantum mechanics. Dramaturg and "outside eye" Heidi Arneson called it "a journey through time and space that's free of time and space." Teresa paints her father as quite an interesting character, whose intelligence and curiosity exceeded his working class life. She plays herself, her father, and the other characters in the story. In the post-show discussion, she talked about how she wanted to do this as a solo piece and play her father to explore the idea that our ancestors' history and trauma live in us. She seamlessly moves from her voice to her father's and back again, with just a few vocal and physical changes to let us know who's speaking, but with a connection between them.

Because a one-person show is never really just a one-person show, Teresa gets great support from lighting (Alex Clark) and sound (Skyler Nowinski) effects, and especially the shadow puppetry displayed on a screen under the arch on Open Eye's stage. Designed by Kristi Ternes and performed by her and Kallie Melvin, the images and movement created support the storytelling in a sweet and playful way that contrasts with the heaviness of the subject.

Like Teresa, I am also the daughter of a Vietnam vet. I didn't see a lot of similarities between my dad's story and Paul's (drafted right out of college where he earned a degree in accounting, my dad thankfully never saw combat and spent his tour of duty tracking troop movements and such on the room-sized computers of the late '60s), but still, there's a familiarity to the experience. And likely a familiarity for anyone with inherited family trauma. The piece is a real love letter from Teresa to her father, and other men and women like him, who come home from wars having experienced real trauma, and were forgotten or neglected.

The show plays this weekend only, and if you go be prepared to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours, and wear a mask (read their full safety policy here). This is similar to the policy that most theaters in town, and nationally, are adopting. It was my first time in a fully vaxxed and masked audience, and it definitely makes me feel a lot more comfortable sitting in a room with a group of strangers again. Vaccination and masks are the only way that the performing arts are going to be able to come back, and we need them to come back, to continue to tell important and meaningful stories like this.