The Theatre of the People’s latest foray onto the stage at the John Waldron Arts Center’s Rose Fire is The Science Fiction Fair with H.G. Wells The Invisible Man and Karel Capek’s Rossum’s Universal Robots.
When you’re seeing or reviewing a production of The Theatre of the People it’s impossible to avoid mixing in more concerns about the production process and theatrical goals than you might with another theatre group. The scripts for this theatrical twofer were developed in very different way and as you might expect quite different results. The script for The Invisible Man was developed with reference to the original book but through improvisations directed by Pat Anderson with Suzie Zimmerman. The basic plot is outlined and there are plenty of short focused scenes, many with humor drawn from local references. The thirteen member cast ranges from experienced and inexperienced adults down through college, high school and the elementary grades. There are more than a couple of family connections in the cast.
The script for Rossum’s Universal Robots is an adaptation by director and Theatre of the People co-founder David Nosko. Nosko began by cutting the script down past a third of its original length, and then had co-founder Hannah Moss choreograph a couple of sequences to fill in, explain and dramatize the action. The dance sequence as Mary Malooley playing an investigative reporter becomes involved with all of the hierarchy of the company was a nicely worked out piece that served the drama well. I enjoyed a later piece on the robots dominance for its dance coherence, but was a bit puzzled as the executed humans had to get up and partner the steps. In this piece the original script’s outline was stronger and the scenes and speeches longer as well.
As I said, the script development for these two pieces was quite different. They look and feel different. But they are united by Theatre of the People’s concern with process, with the theatre people and the people in the audience. At the conclusion of The Invisible Man the entire cast became invisible as they reflected on how it feels and what it means. At the end of Rossum’s Universal Robots man and the basic robots they fought have come to an end and things begin anew with just two character. The emphasis is on promise and new possibilities.
The Theatre of the People’s Science Fiction Fair has final performances October 22nd and 23rd at eight and October 24th at two and eight.