Bruce Norris’ A Parallelogram is a tightly written, fascinating exploration of one of life’s “big questions”. What difference would it make to you if you knew your own future. In particular to know that your future was pretty much set. Would it frustrate you, gnaw at you and effect your next actions? Would you bother still going through the motions? Could you change what has been precast? Can you be a better person if you tried?
Director Michael Grief takes this idea and runs with it, and aided by a terrific cast. Celia Keenan-Bolger is Bee, the woman who learns what her future holds. She struggles against what is to come, alternating between passivity and annoyance that she can’t change it in any major way. Stephen Kunken is Jay, her boyfriend and the unfortunate recipient of most of Bee’s frustration. Julian Castano is JJ, the Latino young man who loves Bee with all her quirks. And Anita Gillette is the older Bee, back to watch and talk with her younger self.
|Stephen Kunken, Juan Castano, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Anita Gillette (phto: Joan Marcus)
In the first act, older Bee can only be seen by younger Bee. Other characters can neither see nor hear her. Jay gets a whiff of her cigarette smoke and keeps accusing younger Bee of smoking, causing one of those minor tiffs that blow up into a major argument. When Bee finally tells Jay what is happening he is, obviously, dubious.
The scene then shifts forward a few months. Bee is in the hospital, being tested for delusions. She has sunk into a depression. Jay is trying to help, in his own self-involved and clumsy way. JJ has gotten more entwined with their lives and Bee shows up, this time as a Doctor. Younger Bee recognizes her, and the two women (or one woman from two different times) verbally spar some more. Less about the present situation than the future they share. To younger Bee’s frustration, the Doctor version of her adds asides and jokes that only the younger version can hear. She says things about Jay to his face, but only younger Bee hears them. Which raises the question is this real or an actual delusion?
I loved A Parallelogram right up until the last 60 seconds. If it had ended 1 minute earlier I could honestly say it was a great show. But the coda took out the key fulcrum of the play, was this real or a delusion. And it ripped the question of personal responsibility away. I am frustrated here. I want you to see this excellent show, but I passionately want them to remove the last 60 seconds. It makes a great show a bit of a time-wasting muddle.
A Parallelogram | Playwright: Bruce Norris | Director: Michael Grief | Cast: Juan Castano, Anita Gillette, Celia Keenan-Bloger, Stephen Kuken | website