nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
February 2, 2007
To some extent, many of us have secret and/or hidden lives—from bizarre hobbies to associations with subcultures to extramarital affairs. In effect, we live in different worlds; so when playwright William Borden takes the theory of a multi-dimensional universe with many different worlds created by the decisions we make and uses it as a metaphor for an extramarital affair, it has the effect of magnifying the little differences in our personalities that we create for ourselves.
If you're thinking that Many Worlds is some kind of sci-fi fantasy trip, it's not. It's a play about human relationships. Thankfully, the plot is not a twisting together of different realities that are supposed to form a single story. No, it's set mostly in a single world—a cheap motel room where a cheating couple has been meeting for many years—and that works for the world of this play because the fact is even if other worlds do exist we would not be acutely aware of them. We can only actually live in one world at a time. We are grounded in this way. This is not to say that the play doesn't shift from one world to another, it does, but not so often that it becomes confusing. Borden is not trying to have us follow these shifts but he simply uses them to give perspective on the "main" world where the majority of the action takes place.
The two main characters, Maggie and Axel, have been having this affair for a long time. Maggie is distinctly certain about the events in life and her future but she wishes to have the freedom of uncertainty. Axel is quite the opposite, he is pure uncertainty but he desperately wants to be certain. This is beautifully exemplified by his belief in the possibility of different worlds. It is as if he feels he could actually live in one of these other worlds if he could only go there. He's never sure if he's made the right decision and always wonders what the results of a different choice would be. The third character, Skip, is Maggie's husband. He stands on stage and occasionally interjects little bits of dialogue that only Maggie can hear. He also enters into different worlds with both Maggie and Axel, showing the potential effects of their choices.
Borden makes a good choice in making the shifts to other worlds short and sweet. He doesn't linger in any of them long enough to establish it as a reality but rather just an alternative. Still, there is something about the shifts that left me unsatisfied. The plot unfolds beautifully between Maggie and Axel, so I felt hard pressed to justify Skip's presence. His character does little to drive the plot forward. He merely gives us perspective, and that's fine but it sometimes felt like an interruption of the real plot.
The dialogue in this play is fantastic. At times it's highly charged, ping-pong banter while at other times it's filled with deep and intriguing philosophy about the nature of relationships and reality. Borden is a great storyteller and his dialogue is as crisp as can be. Director Isaac Byrne does a fine job using the banter to drive a fast pace and he uses the innate sexiness of the setting very well. Still, there are moments that go by so fast that his actors don't really appear to have the time to even think of the things they're saying.
The cast is rock solid. I was truly sucked into their characters, especially those of Maggie and Axel. Ellen David plays Maggie with a sultry and yet slightly urgent quality. She uses the remarkable tone in her voice as the main tool for her acting. Gregory Porter Miller, as Axel, completely embodies his role. I felt every second of his confusion and deep desire for certainty. He drives the pace and keeps the audience thirsty for his next line. Greg Horton plays Skip with enough conviction to make me want to know more about his character.
The production is put together very well by Working Man's Clothes Productions. The set, courtesy of Ace Eure, is nice looking and practical. Jake Platt effectively gives us a simple flash of light in his light design to indicate the reality shifts. Overall, the look and feel of the production, while bare bones, is spot-on.
I highly recommend this show. It made me think a little about the things that I'm certain of and the ways that I tailor my personality to the world I'm occupying. I genuinely felt for these characters. What more can you ask for when going to the theatre?