Cassiopeia Review Rundown

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logo-2011-11-17 (1)This show may not conform to everyone’s notion of theater, and others may find it obscure or difficult. A work of art that takes as its essential premise the duality of dichotomies such as reason versus emotion inevitably will lead to conclusions that mirror that assumption of opposed perceptions, and while that may lend a certain predictable quality to the piece’s ultimate development, this production makes each moment onstage both clear and alive.

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backstage_logoOne needn’t be a big believer in slim odds and probability to take something away from “Cassiopeia,” David Wiener’s haunting new play that seems to have come to the Theatre @ Boston Court from the heavens. But the power of possibility—ah, that’s something else again.

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LA-Theater-Critic-logo-smallSuch philosophic/scientific ruminations are the focus of The Theatre @ Boston Court‘s world premiere production of David Wiener‘s “Cassiopeia,” a non-stop cerebral dervish, which — under the astute direction of Emilie Beck — plays like a highbrow, phantasmagoric spoken word duel. A symphony of words, heavenly vocals, and (fantastic!) original compositions, technically produced and executed to gorgeous, minimalist perfection.

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lifeinlaDavid Wiener’s new play is an intelligent, lyrical, and thought-provoking piece that will completely transport you into its world for the duration of its 76-minute running time, and will have you musing on its subtleties long after you’ve left the theatre.

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variety-logo-7555711Schrodinger’s Cat — that poor hypothetical puss sealed up in a box unseen and simultaneously dead and alive — is explicitly evoked in the course of David Wiener’s world premiere “Cassiopeia” at Pasadena’s Theater@Boston Court. Appropriately, too, since this tone poem exploration of the physics of human contact manages to be both lyrical and blunt, engaging and tedious all at once. If you’re in a mood to give yourself over to rich imagery richly (sometimes too richly) conveyed, you’ll encounter something rare and beautiful.

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la_weekly_logo_265x70E.B. Brooks designed the costumes, and Stephen Gifford the set, which, with Jeremy Pivnick’s lighting design, results in the experience of sitting inside a three-dimensional poem written by W.B. Yeats. That part is truly exhilarating.

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stage and cinema small square box JPGDirector 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.

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edge_header_leftThough the largely enigmatic and nonlinear text requires rapt attention and some dedicated reflection in sorting out the script’s labyrinth of thematic threads and diffuse narrative elements, there are payoffs for those willing to take the poetic journey. Director Emilie Beck, a superb three-member ensemble, and an inspired design team bring the challenging drama to life in an exemplary world premiere rendition.

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talkin_broadwayDavid Wiener’s Cassiopeia is beautiful, intelligent, and delightful to listen to. To be sure, it isn’t much of a play. The script itself calls the piece a “duet,” which does seem a bit closer to the truth. It’s two poetic monologues, inextricably intertwined and occasionally interspersed with an actual scene.

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latimesTrapped on a plane rattled by turbulence, an autistic scientist named Quiet (Doug Tompos) finds himself seated next to a garrulous African American woman, Odetta (Angela Bullock), who claims they have met. But he’s too busy discovering the secret of the universe on a cocktail napkin to acknowledge the two once shared a strange, hallucinogenic sojourn in the mansion of a brilliant astronomer, somewhere near the Mississippi.

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the stage struck reviewIn short, “Cassiopeia” is not an easy play, but it is compelling. One cannot help but feel that one should see it at least twice, if only to absorb the two strands of the duet enough to be able to be enveloped by their counterpoint. And yet, what is life itself if not a constant, sometimes somewhat unintelligible forward movement toward something just beyond reach?

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kcrwThe play circles around two wonderfully socially awkward characters: one, a tweed coat wearing professor who grew up as a math prodigy – the kind of whiz kid who just gets numbers, he feels them. The second, an African-American maid Odetta who, in her own words, was born ugly. Her mother said to her early, “You better go to school and get smart. You better learn things because anyone can see you don’t have womanly features.”

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laist07350Director Emilie Beck seems to be in extraordinary sync with her design team, creating any number of subtle grace notes during the show, but her reveal of a river between the two characters as the long blue train of a dress being drawn across the stage by The Voice is particularly satisfying. Stephen Gifford’s set, Jeremy Pivnick’s lighting and Jack Arky’s sound design combine seamlessly into the perfect theatrical location for this intellectual play, a place both starkly symbolic and delicately ephemeral.

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**

Review Rundown is updated as new reviews are published.

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