Fate and Spinoza

Rated 4.0

We’ve come to expect a complex melding of the philosopher and the imp from Rinde Eckert, the writer/composer/performer who’s visited UC Davis several times. His new play Fate and Spinoza (created during a winter residence) fits that pattern. The opening scenes invoke a rocket launch and hard science, but the focus gradually moves to the mysteries undergirding research and creative work.

There’s a running conversation with the Fates, and a drop-in by the devil, both communicating with a painter (he signs his canvases “Spinoza”) who’s losing his vision due to macular degeneration. There’s also a chessboard and some skittish teens.

Many scenes are set in an aging hotel that’s about to be imploded, invoking recollections and regrets, countered by lighter moments featuring two talkative hotel handymen who’ve been discussing the replacement of some floor tile (without getting around to it) for ages.

There’s a special mix of high concepts and down-to-earth observations, the “long view” and the “everyday.”

The show features a large cast, ranging from savvy, experienced Equity actor Tim Orr (Foothill Theatre, Capital Stage, now earning an MFA) to less polished undergrads who aren’t theater majors. Nancy Pipkin, who’s designed dozens of professional shows, creates a slew of good-looking (contemporary) outfits, as many as you’d see in a big summer-festival production.