Seldom does a play come along that is so passionately, thoroughly, unapologetically weird. That single word sums up the first (and possibly second) impression of Northern Light Theatre’s season opener, Jason Craig’s gender-bending space odyssey Space // Space.
The premise sounds strange enough on paper: twin brothers Lumus (Trevor Duplessis) and Penryn (Nadien Chu) have been launched into space in a retro-futuristic pod containing a few vinyl recordings of Earth’s greatest hits. We meet the duo several years into their aimless journey, just as Penryn wakes up from a three-year slumber to discover that he is now a she.
Craig’s script orbits around itself in tightening circles: flashbacks show that while his brother slept, Lumus practiced a wincingly awkward stand-up routine, repeated perhaps one time too many over the course of the show. Their dialogue loops back on itself: at one point Penryn pauses, confused, and mentions that time must have doubled back; Lumus squints at him, his expression already beginning to take on a manic glint, before declaring a little too loudly that he’s just screwing with him.
Quite literally, too. There’s a deep and enduring sense of foreboding that permeates every second of this play, a vague but inescapable dread that is inevitably confirmed in a bracing reveal. Meanwhile, Lumus’ body is decaying unnaturally fast; he’s losing teeth.
Chu and Duplessis staunchly handle roles that are demanding for their sheer lack of footing. Despite the plodding, dopey speech that characterizes the first half of the show, they are able to pick up the pace and occasionally bend Craig’s disorienting script to their own purpose. Duplessis’ reverberating, bluesy harmonica number is hauntingly compelling, while Chu’s despairing reprisal of her brother’s stand-up routine stands out as her strongest moment.
If you can manage to accept this show’s sheer absurdity—and that’s a pretty big if—a vast chasm appears underneath the barrage of superficial incongruity. It’s dark down there, and disturbing: riddled with the ickiest iterations of gender and sexual conflict. Unfortunately, Space // Space threatens to alienate the audience before they care to further explore those depths.
Until Sat, Nov 29 (7:30 pm; additional 11:30 pm show on Fri, Nov 28)
Directed by Trevor Schmidt
ATB Financial Arts Barns,
$16 – $28