Los Angeles Theater Review: CASSIOPEIA (Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena)

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by Jason Rohrer on January 29, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles

IN THE SHADOW OF STARS

David Wiener’s ten-year-old, never-before-produced play Cassiopeia needs work.  As usual at Boston Court, this experimental piece has received a production so grand that it more than warrants seeing.  Also typical of Boston Court, this challenging show is so sharp that it highlights the weaknesses of its script, such that Mr. Wiener could use this production as a map toward a more fully realized version of his original intent.

Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema review of Cassiopeia at Boston Court in Pasadena

Director Emilie Beck has taken a bare-bones script with few stage directions and made of it a gorgeous little spectacle.  Stephen Gifford’s sensuous dreamspace of a set and E.B. Brooks’s costumes, variously simple or so extravagant as to become a part of the set, have been lighted with quiet brilliance by Jeremy Pivnick, and Jack Arky’s sound design and original music wrap the whole in a light sonic blanket.  The actors – Angela Bullock as Odetta, Doug Tompos as Quiet, and PaSean Wilson as The Voice – acquit themselves very nicely.

Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema review of Cassiopeia at Boston Court in Pasadena

At the center of all this beauty is a script still too knotted up in its intellectuality to mean anything very much.  Essentially a pair of monologues (one from an autodidact housekeeper, the other from a mildly autistic physicist) interrupted and amplified by an ethereal presence who sometimes sings, Cassiopeia illustrates the pain of loneliness using the unlikely conceit of two thought experiments used in theoretical physics.  For Schrodinger’s famous cat to help us understand that we can be alone even in the presence of another more or less like ourselves is a neat trick.  And the loneliness of the doppelganger is an interesting paradox.

Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema review of Cassiopeia at Boston Court in Pasadena

But this play that threatens to dance forever on the wings of poetry in the end comes down to a prosaically serendipitous meeting on an airplane between two people who have more in common than they might think.  In fact they have more in common than an audience may be willing to credit.  This is the sort of coincidence upon which romantic comedy movies turn, and it’s a let-down to discover in the end that all this high talk and artistic expression has served such mean ends.  It must be said also that some of the author’s devices are a little clunky, and break their own rules (when The Voice echoes the two characters, this makes sense; but when The Voice speaks as its own character, or for the sake of convenience plays a fourth character, the delicate balance of the whole show is thrown askew).

Still, the imagination and grace of its presentation make this show a shame to miss.  This is the sort of risk-taking script selection and staging that needs encouragement if theater is to stand alone as its own 21st Century form.  You can see nothing like this anywhere but on a stage, and for that reason alone Cassiopeia would deserve an audience; its performances and imagery mandate attendance.

Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema review of Cassiopeia at Boston Court in Pasadena
photos by Ed Krieger

Cassiopeia
Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena
scheduled to end on February 24, 2013
for tickets, call 626-683-6883
or visit http://www.BostonCourt.org

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