“Chaos Theory,” written by Courtney Meaker ‘08, was the penultimate play of the New Plays Festival II. The show was immediately striking: Director senior Elizabeth Tweedy’s actors took the stage as lights slowly rise dressed up like a box of Crayola Crayons Ñ one in all red, one in all yellow, one in all blue and one in all black with white dreads hanging to the ground. Tweedy’s costume choices created, by far, the boldest imagery of the Festival; luckily, she and Meaker have the material and talent to back them up. This week we were treated to perhaps the most polished, exciting, beautiful work of the term.
The play opens outside of time and space, and the audience proceeds to spend the evening with three wonderfully odd individuals: Frannie, in the blue (sophomore Ellie Davis), Bach, in the yellow (freshman Eli Adams), and Seth, in the red (junior Tristan Yi), as they attempt to build a machine that will allow them to travel to a different universe, one where Frannie’s girlfriend didn’t leave her. Freshman Pei Koroye, in the white dreads, plays the girlfriend, Mack, as well as two other outsiders who regularly upset the trio’s world. And raised up over them all on an acting block, reacting along with the actors, is the watchful eye of stage direction reader sophomore Maty Ortega. When not in a scene, Ortega tells us that the actors still remain on stage, lending the proceedings a Brechtian quality; the staged reading only further emphasizes this element of theatricality and voyeurism. In Meaker’s work, we are always aware we are watching a play (and sometimes a dance), due to the fact that we can see Ortega and the offstage actors watching with us.
And what an incredible troupe of actors it is. What this ensemble has that makes it stand out among all the other amazing casts we’ve seen this term is the remarkable chemistry. This is most obvious in the relationship between Yi and Adams, whose comic timing and frequent in-sync dialogue is pitch-perfect and consistently hilarious (even when apart their solo performances are phenomenal). The friend group is believable as a long-term one; we see the characters bounce their passive aggressive comments and inside jokes off each other like so many particles flying through the air.
Ah, the particles. I would be remiss not to acknowledge the science-fictional element of the evening, the most intriguing part of Meaker’s little masterpiece. The action of the play is driven by the action (or inaction?) of the universe-travelling machine, throwing everything that happens in the characters’ reality into doubt, as the play careens faster than the speed of light toward an ending that both marks the end of our evening and Ñ perhaps Ñ the ending of the universe itself.