At the Bloomington Playwrights Project’s theatre on preview night for Arun Lakra’s Sequence, the lights came up and the mechanical strains of a Wendy Carlos’ Bach selection faded. Henry A. McDaniel III playing Theo entered the room. Theo is neatly turned out with overcoat, suit jacket and dress shirt. His slightly rebellious hair is neatly combed. He’s a person who cares about his appearance. Theo tentatively opens an umbrella indoors and smiles when nothing happens. He then crosses the stage and hesitantly walks under a ladder. Again nothing happens and once again he smiles.
Lauren Sagendorph enters to talk with Theo. She plays Cynthia, a feisty young woman who’s won a copy of his book about being lucky. Theo is lucky. He wins at games of chance. Time Magazine has called him the luckiest man in the world and he’s preparing to bet 850 M $ on the coin toss of the upcoming Super Bowl. Cynthia is a skeptic, but a fascinated one and she seems to want something undefinable from Theo.
Meanwhile on the other side of Sequence’s open stage, Catherine Du Bois as Professor Guzman is puttering about a lab table. She’s wearing thick glasses and a messy lab coat. Her hair is escaping from whatever setting she may have attempted. Personal appearance is clearly the last thing on the Professor’s mind.
There’s a knock on her door and Paul Kuhne, playing her student Mr. Adamson, rolls in in his wheel chair. Mr. Adamson has managed to miss all 150 of the multiple choice questions on the professor’s latest test. The result is so unlikely that she actually suspects him of doing it on purpose. As with Cynthia and Theo, it seems that the professor is seeking some vague something from Mr. Adamson.
The questions that Sequence raises are fascinating ones. Is there really some palpable thing that we call luck? Theo seems to have it in spades. He thinks it’s a gift. Mr. Adamson seems to have it not at all. He attributes his luck to the actions of a wise though unknowable God? Cynthia wonders if luck follows some natural laws. The professor actually suspects there might be a gene for luck? Throughout there’s a steady question of the roles of consequence and coincidence.
Although there’s a heady amount of thought in Lakra’s play the characters are far from cardboard spouters of theories. As Theo, McDaniel does a lovely job of moving from a rather brash jerk to a thoughtful caring fellow. Sagendorph’s Cynthia also moves from being a feisty, name dropper to a sympathetic figure. As the professor, Du Bois handled some of the playwrights ‘heavy lifting’ on the theoretical side with aplomb. Kuhne was very effective as the stubbornly faithful unluckiest man.
The characters in the twin stories of Sequence are oblivious of one another. It’s one of the real pleasures of the evening to simply watch director Lee Cromwell’s choreography and to see how neatly scenes unfold in the space. Final scene as guns are drawn by characters that we’ve come to care about on characters that we also care about is wonderfully tense.
Sequence is the Woodward/Newman Drama Award Winner. It plays Oct 4-5 and 10-12 at the Bloomington Playwrights Project.