Orbiting Astral Bodies
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nytheatre.com review by Erin M.Daley
August 17, 2013
A scene from Orbiting Astral Bodies
The Moon (played by Amy Persons) has had enough. She looks down on Earth and disgusted with the folly and insolence of us earthlings, she strikes out on her own, hoping to garner the respect of Io and Titan, the more prestigious moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
Warren (Louis Sallan), a man obsessed with not having enough time, tries to convince The Moon to take him along, hoping to harness the power of quantum physics to eke out another hundred or so years of existence. He tries to explain his schematics and equations to Gillian (Jamie Agnello), a reclusive shut-in who surrounds herself with travel books, but fears anything outside of what she knows. So, she holes herself up, emerging just long enough to pass off sleeping pills to her roommate Claire (Rachel Napoleon), who gorges herself on barbiturates to continue a romance with a man (Benjamin Maters) she only sees in her dreams. Meanwhile, Gillian’s brother, Mark (Ryan Barrentine), a fervent environmentalist, has realized that the earth has stopped talking to him after hearing that the moon was deserting her. So he mounts a campaign to stay the moon’s departure, chaining her to the earth.
There is a contagious sense of wonder and awe that pulls the audience through the play, making the whole experience feel somehow cosmic. Bodies, people and stories are drawn to each other, sharing an orbit for a few moments before falling away again, or aligning with someone else. The moon, who let’s be honest, has seen it all, offers snappy advice to these loosely connected wanderers as they journey through the earth and stars. They are all searching for something ephemeral and almost unattainable. Seemingly alone in their journey, their similarities only come into focus at a distant vantage, such as from the moon or beyond the fourth wall.
The heightened, poetic language of Nathan Gregorski’s deeply human script was well-handled by the cast and worked with the fantastical tone of the piece, lending gravity to a sentimental narrative. Kevin O’Callaghan’s directing combined with the work of the finely tuned ensemble created a landscape of synchronicity and layered vignettes, a mysterious and captivating foundation on which the stories unfurled.
The design elements were simple but effective, utilizing the company to create the space and manipulate some practical lighting. The timing, staging and attention to detail belied a truly admirable dedication to the production that overcame its humble means.
Orbiting Astral Bodies is a wonderful entry for FringeNYC this year. At its heart is a touching story, told simply and elegantly by a team of young, passionate and sympathetic artists. All in all, creating an experience grander than the sum of its parts.