Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Evolution is a Magical Journey

Evolution takes the audience on an wonderful journey and is now playing at 59E59 theaters.
What do you think of when you hear the term “evolution”?  Do you see it as the process of changing a mind-set, intellectual growth?  Do you view it as the biological process of species change?  Or do you think of it as the unending process that takes place  across time and ecosystems?  Among those definitions is one other (from online):
5.  a motion incomplete in itself, but combining with coordinated motions to produce as a single action…
All of those definitions apply to varying degrees in the new play at 59E59 Theater, Evolution.  It explores both biological progression and the changing mind set of individuals.  But it is the “combining with coordinated motions” that make Evolution such a powerful and interesting piece of theater.

To some, the description “powerful and interesting”, might make it sound static, dull and dry.  It is anything but that.  It swings between hilarious and insightful, often achieving both at the same time.  Evolution is a wonderful play.  It is the story of sisters Minnie and Pam, with plenty of input from an overly invested Mother.
All three characters, plus a few others, are expertly brought to life by Patricia Buckly, the playwright and performer.   Ms. Buckly seamlessly transitions between the characters as they interact with each other, carry on one-sided phone conversations or rant at the world in general.  Each character brings a different point of view to the proceedings.
Minnie is a young woman in the middle of a mental breakdown.   She has eschewed her medications and is in the process of succumbing to her delusions.   Minnie is the catalyst, but not the main character, in this dramatic comedy.   The prime story driver is her sister, Pam, an evolutionary biologist working with whales.  Pam has written a successful book and is balancing a busy life of seminar appearances and teaching demands.  Pam is the vehicle Ms. Buckly uses to provide the observations about evolution, sibling rivalry and the bonds of family.  Pam is funny, intelligent and just bitter enough to be a stand in for the New York audience.
Mother, no other name is given or necessary, hovers about.  She tries to support Minnie, clueless as to how invasive she is, and tries to guilt Pam into spending more time with the family.  She is stereotypical without ever becoming a caricature.
The sisters are entranced by the ocean, something they inherited from their unseen and barely mentioned father, long gone.  Mother is not a fan of the seaside, with its sand and impossibly big ocean.  
Scenes from the ocean are shown on various screens, illustrating Minnie’s imagination.  The show features expert  video presentation and scenic design by Jim Findlay accompanied by great music by Marc Mellits.  The entire set design is wonderful.  
The set suggests a homey space, but provides a plethora of compartments and shelves.  Every time Ms. Buckly pulls something off a shelf, it is like the character is accessing another memory.  These characters have all compartmentalized their lives, causing chaos as they travel into unknown territory.  Director Michele Chivu paces the show excellently for the most part.  The show does slow down in the final few minutes.  It is appropriate for the story, but is a change from the excellent flow achieved by most of the show.
Evolution @ 59E59 Theaters
Playwright: Patricia Buckly
Director: Michele Chivo
Cast: Patricia Buckly

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