Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Nora Theatre Company Presents Terry Johnson's "Insignificance" at Central Square Theater

The current offering by the Nora Theatre Company at Central Square Theater in Cambridge is Terry Johnson's "Insignificance."  The play opened in London in 1982 to great critical acclaim.  This production of the play is directed by Daniel Gidron.

The action is set in 1953 - The Joe McCarthy Red Scare era.  The action is set in a period hotel room, and involves four characters:

  • The Actress  (Stacy Fischer) - who just might be Marilyn Monroe
  • The Ballplayer (Alexander Platt) - who just might be her dumb jock ballplayer husband, Joe DiMaggio
  • The Professor (Richard McElvain) - who might be Albert Einstein
  • The Senator (Barry M. Press) - who might be old Joe McCarthy himself
The two acts involve discussions and interactions among various combinations of these characters - a ménage à quatre if you will, or a human quadratic equation.  It is clear that the playwright is asking his characters - and his audiences - to wrestle with some deep philosophical questions.  The philosophizing is done in the context of a bedroom farce, so I felt a bit of cognitive dissonance in trying to make sense of the whole thing.  There is a prolonged scene in which the philosophy of Solipsism is massaged from several angles.

As should be the case in any drama, each character wants something.

  • The Actress wants a baby and wants to be appreciated for her mind as much as for her physical beauty.
  • The Ballplayer wants his wife to be available to him alone, and not to the cloying, clutching, adoring public.
  • The Professor wants to finish his work of solving the riddle of the shape of the cosmos, and to escape the guilt that he feels over the use of his theories to perfect the atomic bomb.
  • The Senator wants to trap the Professor and get him to testify before the House Unamerican Activities Committee, name names and admit his Communist sympathies.

As the action of the play progresses, each character is frustrated in their quest and suffers a loss of some kind - a miscarriage of something not brought to fruition. While the playwright's style of humor is not exactly a perfect fit for my tastes, I appreciate the complexity of his ideas and vision.  The cast members, all veteran Equity actors, are excellent in portraying the roles that Johnson has created.  The audience members clearly appreciated their efforts at telling this story.

This is the kind of play that requires some thought and reflection on the part of an audience member.  I find that in the 48 hours since I saw the performance, I have discovered additional meanings in certain actions and scenes.

The play will run at Central Square Theater through February 9.

 Click below for tickets and information:

Central Square Theater Website



No comments: