Truce on Uranus
nytheatre.com review by Josh Sherman
October 10, 2006
"Why I am writing this play? I'm not even sure if I want to write it?"
When the above sentence was uttered in the opening scene of the new play from Dreamscape Theatre, Truce On Uranus, I immediately felt a sense of dread creep up my neck and seep into my brain. My initial thought was, "Good God, if the playwright's not even sure, why are we even here?" That question is not answered very well at all, and the end result is a confusing and unsatisfying piece of theatre.
Written and directed by Mark Lindberg, Truce on Uranus seems to want to play in the land of the similarly disappointing self-referential piece [title of show]. The marginal plot begins with the playwright/character Mark, played by Ricardo Perez Gonzalez, confessing his trepidations in putting pen to paper in the world of theatre, and then informing us that he's running away from his problems to live on Uranus.
The lights then come up on Margaret and Truce, a lesbian couple discussing their relationship at a café. Margaret suggests that Truce would be more romantic if she were to say that she'd kill her lover out of passion. Truce sees a waitress and inexplicably bolts from the stage.
Enter Mark's boyfriend Desi (played by Jordan Wishner, a comedic beacon of light in this production), who is calling back Mark to talk about their fight last evening, but leaves an amusing voicemail about wanting to visit him on Uranus. Truce and Margaret, who is Mark's roommate, go back to Mark's apartment, where they find a play that Mark's been writing. It turns out that Mark has written in Truce as a character in the play within the play, who kills her lover Cassandra on the page, which explains her running away in the café from the doppelganger waitress (because the supposedly fictitious Cassandra is played by the same actress as the waitress). Desi then faux-breaks-into the apartment and runs into Margaret and Truce, and none of them can find Mark until Desi opens the closet door (metaphor alert!) in the apartment, which is a portal to...the planet Uranus.
Mark has been returning periodically in between scenes to explain how he's not sure where the play is going or why he's writing it. But now, Mark is on Uranus, which in this production is a purple and yellow planet made out of what appear to be cardboard rocks. It's also very cold; the audience knows this because all four characters utter the phrase "it's so cold on Uranus" repeatedly. From out of nowhere pops a drag queen named Titania, who is a moon of Uranus that dispenses rhyming wisdom in four-inch heels. After much running around Uranus in circles, the leads all manage to meet up and it is revealed that some of the characters are only imagined in Mark's brain, while some of the characters are real. The piece rapidly devolves into a masturbatory exercise in dull existential theatre. There is also a dance finale to an ABBA song which has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the play.
The biggest problem with Truce on Uranus is that it fails to answer any of the questions it asks and fails to motivate the audience to want to solve them on their own. The conceit of writing a play about the process of playwriting wears thin quickly, and this piece relies heavily on that weak crutch. It is billed as a queer farce, but it is not particularly funny (save for the character of Desi), or convincingly queer (save for the character of Desi). It commits the cardinal sin of making a comedy boring. In the end, the play feels much like the actual Uranus—a distant, cold blue planet, moving around in its own orbit, unaffected by any outside environment, and a place that no one particularly wants to visit.