By: Darryl Reilly
A vintage gold clock floating above the stage set with white wheelie chairs, other spare furnishings and two large eerie white mask statues, is the arrestingly dreamy landscape scenic designer Oliver Zeller has created for author Catalina Florescu’s intriguing one-act play, Sans Me. For 50 minutes, a gallery of people confront cancer. Alzheimer’s disease, and Eastern European political oppression.
Ms. Florescu’s superior dramatic writing delineates each character through her precise construction of each monologue, where the facts of her subjects’ plights and their individuality are clearly imparted. Florescu’s effect is that of a compelling tapestry of humanity. Her play recalls the achievement of Harold Pinter’s later short works which dramatized medical and totalitarianism concerns.
The dynamic trio of Monica Hunken, Jon Peacock and Charles Pang portray the diverse collection of characters with pathos, humor and histrionic flair. Each actor shines throughout, with Mr. Pang is as an ostensible central figure suffering from a brain tumor, Mr. Peacock as a boisterous woman wearing a head scarf and Ms. Hunken as a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Director Dennis Yueh-Yeh Li’s sterling work with his cast is matched by his physical staging which crackles with force and momentum. Lighting designer Riva Fairhall achieves a suitably otherworldly sheen through varying gradations of starkness and dimness. Alessandra Cronin’s sharp video design emphasizes the celestial and the enigmatic. Composer Justin Ethan Mathews’ electronically modern score perfectly complements the actions, and his sound design renders it and the effects with balance and clarity.
Sans Me was presented by the Transforma Theatre company as part of their Science in Theatre Festival 2022. The troupe is “dedicated to creating interactive theatre experiences at the convergence of science, consciousness and ritual.” Following the play, neuroscientist and professor, Moran Cerf, gave a speech addressing the scientific issues Sans Me raises. After an intermission, a panel consisting of Mr. Cerf, playwright Catalina Florescu, Michael Katz, Deidre Barrett, and moderated by Transforma Theatre’s artistic director Tjaša Ferme, explored Sans Me in depth.
The Science in Theatre Festival 2022 is a three-day event “that pairs playwrights with scientists, combining theater with new technologies.” Sans Me was performed at, and livestreamed from New York City’s The Tank theatre, on December 9, 2022. On December 10, there was Can’t make This Sh*t up!, about the transformation of sewage into electrical power. On December 11, scenes from Frozen, a musical about the ramifications of freezing embryos, will have a concert presentation.
Sans Me (December 9, 2022)
Transforma Theatre’s Science in Theatre Festival 2022
The Tank, 312 West 36th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit www.transformatheatre.com
Running time: 50 minutes with no intermission