Love and physics commingle in Theatre Nova’s “Stargazers”
Playwright Reina Hardy has a lot on her mind: the Big Bang Theory, the course of true love, the waxing and waning of sexual passion, personality disruptions caused by social media, the difficulty of making contact at a party when you’re socially awkward, and so much more.
These interests all come incongruously together in her play Stargazers, now having its Michigan premiere at Theatre Nova.
Three talented actors under the direction of David Wolber work hard to bring credibility to their characters and find the humor and a bit of poetry in Hardy’s cosmic drama. The play is a bit too artsy, the metaphors too forced, and the plot too thin. But the actors are engaging and in touch with the characters they play.
Eddie Rothermel plays Rupert Knox, a graduate student in astrophysics. Like the characters in the popular TV series The Big Bang Theory, he is socially inept. The play opens with several vignettes of Rupert trying to pick up dates at parties with the worst pickup lines ever, followed by clueless blunt reactions. He wants to have a girlfriend in time for his sister’s wedding. The outlook at first is grim.
Rothermel captures Rupert’s awkward posture and bumbling attempts at social conversation but also signals a hard and arrogant streak that will show up later in the play.
Kaitlyn Valor Bourque plays Claire, an ethereal poet caught in space, or time, or another dimension. She’s a metaphor, I think. She’s been abandoned by love and is wandering about in a nice party dress in another dimension when she meets Rupert in the men’s room at a party. Bourque has a fine, melodic voice, which helps in her presentation of poetic reflections on the cosmos, lost love, sexual yearning. She finds Rupert interesting as another lost soul in search of love and the ultimate scientific meaning of life.
Katelyn Wilson plays the more down to earth Elaine (sometimes known as Gwendolyn). Elaine is in search of a personality for her blog. She shows up one night at Rupert’s in response to an online inquiry. She has a different interpretation of what Rupert had in mind. Over the course of the play, Rupert and Elaine become uneasy friends and potential lovers. But the course of love -- well, you know …. Wilson gives a tough, earthy and honest portrayal of Elaine and makes it work even when she finds herself somehow in Claire’s extraterrestrial or extradimensional world.
The three-way relationship is mingled with discussions of astrophysics but the connection seems a bit forced, except as an explanation for where Claire may be. Early on she performs a neat little magic trick which suggests that science and magic are not necessarily incompatible.
Wolber keeps it simple, which makes it easier to follow the broad outlines of Hardy’s ideas. But the idea of love and physics do not always come together smoothly. Even a play that emphasizes ideas over story needs a stronger and more believable story (yes, even in the context of a sci-fi fantasy).
Theatre Nova does a great job of bringing new plays to audiences and Hardy’s play concludes a season of thought-provoking theater. The point here, as in the other plays this season, is to present theater that is fresh, different, and worth debating about.
Hugh Gallagher has written theater and film reviews over a 40-year newspaper career and was most recently managing editor of the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers in suburban Detroit.
"Stargazers" continues at 8 pm on Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 pm on Sundays through Aug. 4 at Theatre Nova, 410 W. Huron, Ann Arbor. For tickets, call 734-635-8450 or gvisit theatreNOVA.org.