Shakin’ all over
There must be something in the air attracting astrophysics to Sacramento. Currently, three local productions delve into science and space to try to explain human behavior, each production with characters reciting metaphysical and astrophysical theories in relation to relationships.
We have River Stage’s Sympathetic Magic, Sacramento Theatre Company’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile and now Beyond the Proscenium Productions’ Quake, which has a brilliant astrophysicist doubling as a serial murderer.
Quake, written by relative newcomer Melanie Marnich, was the only play authored by a new playwright at the 2001 Humana Festival of New Plays. Marnich wanted to explore women’s issues with strong messages and strong female characters, and her two main characters in this eccentric comedy are just that.
Lucy is on the pursuit to find Mr. Right. Along the way, she stumbles onto That Woman (her only name), a murderess and astrophysicist who disposes of her husbands, Mr. Wrongs, the moment they disappoint her.
Lucy is on the “move,” a word that becomes her mantra on her soul-mate journey, and sees That Woman as her mentor. “I want what she has,” Lucy says of That Woman’s power and velocity. Lucy meets and discharges myriad stereotypical men, and she begins to converse with That Woman, a figure who begins to seem more mythical than real. That Woman responds with diatribes about physics, ions, power, chaos and motion—kind of like the cosmos meets the Cosmo girl.
There is quite a bit of quirk in Quake, which keeps it funny and edgy—important qualities in a play that doesn’t play by the rules. There are tidbits, funny bits and serious bits; short scenes and long speeches; fantasies and realities. Most of them work, but you’re left with the feeling that Marnich has powerful aim and hasn’t quite hit the bull’s eye. Some of the speeches are spacey, the male characters cartoony, and the end squishy. But enough clever dialogue and funny asides, along with a strong production by Beyond the Proscenium Productions, keep it flying high.
The cast is engaging, from the two main characters (Tara Reynolds as Lucy and Khimmberly Maarshall as That Woman) to a funny support team (especially Terilyn Moore, who displays great comedic timing with all her sundry characters). The only small miscue is Reynolds not showing enough of the character’s vulnerabilities in the beginning.
The simple, black set is set off by splashes of blood red, mirrored in That Woman’s costumes. A slide and video show in the background subtly gives movement to the scenes, apropos to the play’s “always moving” theme. And clever staging includes a couple bed scenes in an upright bed; floating handlebars to indicate bicycles; and a great accompanying soundtrack that includes Annie Lennox, Laurie Anderson, Bonnie Raitt, U2 and Sacramento’s own dRAW PiNKY.