nytheatre.com review by Ryan Emmons
August 23, 2010
Insurmountable Simplicities is a philosophical and esoteric journey that leads to where all such journeys end...nowhere, which is, after all, somewhere...isn't it? You may just have to go see for yourself to pick out the various phrases and ideas of Descartes, Aristotle, and other such philosophers that excite your mind. The drama of the play, and of the metaphysics that is its subject matter, lies in the paradoxes it creates for itself. For instance we are told two characters are unconscious as they have a conversation with each other.
The play is split up into six separate settings. The order of these sections seems incidental and gives the play a surreal feeling. The content of each section is more important than their arrangement. Writers Roberto Casati and Achille Varzi do an excellent job here in disorienting the audience and giving the play a clear artistic style for the actors, designers, and director to work with. Insurmountable Simplicities is part comedy, part tragedy, and part philosophy lecture, but it is always surreal. The play tackles consciousness, art, language, and the human psyche. Not a small task for a play just over an hour long!
The ensemble of actors made up of Alex Herrald, Victoria Pollack, Richard Lafleur, and Alice Winslow does an excellent job in putting the fun back into philosophy. That's not to say that a survey course in philosophy would not help you find the humor in this play, but even if you are not that attuned to Descartes' First Meditations, the work is still thought-provoking and funny.
The real highlight of this production for me was the original music by Duncan Wood. The music provides dimension and tension in an otherwise neutral space. Wood's music is full of paradox and play, constantly racing after itself. He provides us with the wit and coherence that make philosophy a gripping subject for the stage. His haunting melodies are the perfect compliment to director Natalie Glick's vision.
"I think, therefore I am." I'm sure you have heard that one before, but if you need a refresher on whether or not you are still thinking at the end of summer, Insurmountable Simplicities might just be the cure. However, if you buy a ticket, you are...and that means you're already thinking.