nytheatre.com review by Richard Lovejoy
August 14, 2010
Mobius opens with Mackenzie (Joseph Vincent Cordaro) directly talking to the audience. We are essentially told in this opening monologue that there is going to be a big twist in Mobius. The unfortunate thing is that the script seems to exist solely for this twist. While there is a great deal of interesting material that could mined out of some the concepts that get touched upon throughout the story, it all takes a backseat to the "Gotcha!" revelation at the end, much to the play's detriment.
Without giving much away, the play focuses on Mackenzie's brother, the brilliant young Montgomery (RJ Barnett). Montgomery is a homosexual, and on the cusp of coming out to his parents. He is also freakishly intelligent. There's an interesting set-up in all of this—tying together the isolation of a young man discovering his sexuality doesn't fit in with what society might deem normal with an exploration of the way genius, throughout history, is often misunderstood and cast aside by the rest of humanity. The play is also structured in a non-linear fashion, though unfortunately the narrative possibilities this presents are generally underutilized.
Since we're told to be on the lookout for a twist, what said twist is becomes obvious well before the script hits you with the information. When the big reveal is finally made, it is made in a very leaden, clumsy fashion. The ending moments that follow lack any sort of narrative drive. The script doesn't seem to know what to do with the big surprise once it is out in the open. The nature of the twist is also such that it is something that most audience members have seen done before, which makes it all the more underwhelming.
Mobius is also held back by distracting directorial choices. Actors move for no apparent reason, and some of the blocking is just plain confounding. At one moment Montgomery, in the middle of what should be an important conversation with his parents, sits on the kitchen table. It is a baffling and unrealistic choice, especially when there are chairs in the kitchen. It seems to stem more out of solving a traffic jam, rather than being rooted in a concrete action. The blocking in general lacks motivation and clarity. As a result much of the acting comes off as muddy or underrehearsed.
There is, oddly, an intermission. The show is not terribly long—an hour an a half tops—and the intermission doesn't seem necessary (the large majority of the audience remained seated.) In fact, the intermission gives the audience a chance to think things over and get ahead of the play. It also robs the play of any momentum it had left at the end of the first act.
Overall I wanted Mobius to take me on an intellectual journey, a journey about math, about art, about family. I wanted to explore with Mobius, but unfortunately I ended up feeling like Mobius had no ambition beyond having a "surprise" at the end. I'd be interested to see how the play might read if the twist was revealed in the first act instead of the last moment, or if the play didn't rely on a twist at all and instead tried to just exist with the circumstances it sets out.