The Future

nytheatre.com review by Pamela Butler
October 5, 2012

Andrew Harrison is an orthopedic doctor who was inspired to write this play by being witness to the endless new discoveries science is making on so many fronts.  The future is a broad subject, but he asks the question here, what if, in the near future, there is a technological breakthrough and suddenly we can take a drug that will give us immortality as long as we keep taking it?  And we won’t age either?  To live forever, isn’t that what we all would like? Or at least the option?

Three British couples gather for dinner, several times, at four year intervals to explore the evolution of this fact in their lives.  Rob, the  investment banker who discovers and backs the inventors, and his classy French wife, Beatrice,  embrace the new science.  Rob, played by Derrence Washington, is  ambitious, impatient and alcoholic.  Beautiful Beatrice, aptly played here by Ilinca Kiss, gets to stay beautiful and childless, just as she likes it. The perennial host and hostess, Isaac and Susan, thought they would have a family, but are also lured by the thought of eternal biological life.  Stuart Williams’s Isaac is an easy going man of many hobbies.  He seems more amused by the dilemmas of eternal life than anything.  He  loves his wife, charming and pert Susan,  played by Catherine Gibson, and seems to want only what will make her happy. The third couple represents a more solid sort who at first eschew the option of eternal life.  Julian teaches history and Hannah works with and for the environment. Claire Sanderson as Hannah and Fergal Titley as Julian, are perplexed and affable, respectively, and predictably reactive in the debate.

What a Pandora’s Box we have here.  There are problems when most people do what one would expect, and jump at the chance for eternal life.  Having children must be regulated, and then there is the issue of long term relationships, family and job opportunities. What person can visualize spending eternity with the same person, and who wants to be on a waiting list decades long, to have a child? If no one leaves a great job, where is the room for others to have a shot at it? What a mess. The only plus seems to be for learning new things, like how to play the piano.  Isaac foresees hobby heaven.  For others  there is the matter of boredom.  But who can predict how things will really change? In 50 years, or 100?      

The three couples handle their new found immortality with varying degrees of success and the play itself is really a springboard for discussion.  The ramifications of such a dramatic change in the human condition cannot really begin to be understood at the start of such a venture, which is where we are in the action. 

Personally, given the world as it is now, fear filled, raging and bloodthirsty, it gives me a headache to imagine some characters running things for a generation, much less forever.  I can imagine battles for the drug itself –who can have it, who can’t. With no one dying, the hit man trade would probably take off. The drug certainly wouldn’t be confined to middle class, polite, dinner party society for long. 

The play will surely spark some lively discussion. I might not want immortality, but I wouldn’t mind an end to aging. To live my four score and then some, with a youthful body and mind would be just fine.   And if they can invent an antidote to death, let them first invent an antidote to war, poverty, ignorance, disease and fanaticism.

The play is a little underdeveloped, but makes its point. The actors could use tighter directing and less awkward staging in the hands of  director Paula D’Alessandris.  There are six of them and each act is more or less the same dinner party but  there is a distracting amount of wine being poured and drunk and a general milling about at a lax pace.  The set design by Carl Tallent and lighting by Alana Jacoby nicely represent an upscale living space and it is noted in the program that some of the furnishings will be sold at deep discount after the run.   Some theater goers in the market for home furnishings might want to check out the handsome sofa and dining table at the same time they consider what living with them forever would be like.

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