Quarks and pentaquarks, WIMPs and GIMPs, topness and bottomness, strangeness and charm...
Even a cursory stroll through a particle zoo can be logomaniac heaven. To conjure these words one imagines that no small share of theoretical physicists have ample poetic instincts co-mingling with their scientific imagination. So too does playwright Lucy Kirkwood, in this writer’s view, if her delightful metaphor-rich script Mosquitoes is an indication.
Using the boson aka The God Particle as her launch pad, she grabs us—really grabs us!- in an exploration of a place where the macrocosmos and microcosms might connect—craving for a do over to maybe get-it-right in the next go’round. Kirkwood knows enough about quantum mechanics and cosmology to pepper her script with the likes of a Henny Youngman style joke about the Heisenberg Principle. But she also knows that most of us don’t really have the slightest idea of what it all really means, and instead take the scientists’ facts on faith.
Facts vs. faith vs. factoids is one theme of the family bouncing off the walls of their microcosm in Mosquitoes. One sister, Alice (Cindy Marker) is a brilliant scientist (and meditative Quaker) working on the particle accelerator underneath Geneva seeking the God particle. Her less-than-brilliant sister Jenny (Julia Siple) lives back home in England ever seeking to soothe her anxieties by trolling the Internet for truth. We meet her pregnant and near-hysterical yet refusing the advice of her scientist sister to get an ultrasound to assure the health of her baby. Their older yet randy mother Karen (Meg Thalken) is a sort of composite for Einstein’s wife, Rosalind Franklin and every other woman whose scientific genius was Shanghaied by their mates or male colleagues.
Brilliant! – as the Brits like to say—is, in the American sense, the best word this writer can think of to describe Kirkwood’s off-beat engaging characters. In some ways hewing more closely to quasi-conventional characters – quasi, and certainly no less compelling-- are Alice’s genius son Luke (Alexander Stuart), his classmate Natalie (Upasna Barath), and Alice’s Swiss boyfriend Henri who is forever being called French (Peter Moore). Stalking the action is Kirkwood’s narrator of sorts for the correspondence principle – a seeming ghost of Luke’s father also named The Boson in the program notes (Richard Costes) whose penultimate soliloquy explicates the connections between the macro and micro cosmically speaking.
Though you too may find this exposition by The Boson near the play’s end the one flaw of sorts in this otherwise perfect script gem, Costes’ use of easily understood sign language to help illustrate the script is powerful ,and helps it sing where otherwise it wouldn’t.
While all the performances are strong, in this writer’s view, it is Siple’s Jenny who is simply breathtaking. She is a lovable Archie Bunker with slut instincts ever hanging by a thread. You have to wonder if Siple needs to lie on an analyst’s couch after every performance in order to re-acquaint with terra firma. You may also wonder why a Hollywood producer hasn’t already grabbed this script and ensured that Siple is on contract to play Jenny. Her performance is an Oscar waiting to happen. If anyone in Hollywood is reading this review they should hop a plane that flies faster than the speed of light to make that happen.
Mosquitoes is a top pick for anyone who loves new original works and metaphor rich scripts overflowing with creativity. If you are a seasoned Steep fan who expects superlative acting, this performance will not disappoint.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Director – Jaclynn Jutting
Stage Manager – Lauren Lassus
Set Designer – Sotirios Livaditis
Lighting Designer – Brandon Wardell
Sound Designer – Kevin O’Donnell
Costume Designer – Emily McConnell
Props Designer – Russell Langdon
Fight Choreographer – Almanya Narula
Dialect Coach – Cate Gillespie
Production Manager – Catherine Allen
Assistant Director – Emily Antoff
Assistant Stage Manager – Isaac Jay Pineda
Thru November 16, 2019
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8pm
Sunday matinees at 3pm
1115 West Berwyn Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640