The Root of all Squares
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
March 12, 2007
At some point in human history, some jerk came up with the concept of value and money and credit, and that led to all this material crap that we are so immersed in these days. The Root of All Squares explores this evolution using a simple and completely unsubtle analogy.
The show is the perfect traveling fringe show—all it takes is two actors with Boy Scout uniforms, a roll of tape, two rocks, and a stick. One character, Stan, knows it all, and the other, Worker, needs to have everything explained to him (usually more than once). So you have your basic straight man/goofball set-up.
Stan begins by taping off a square on the floor and explaining that the square represents the body and the body must be protected. At first it seems like we are in for analogy about personal space and sexual harassment, but then the square changes its context and represents a whole city and the city becomes a country—but still the point remains that the square must be protected. And in order to protect it, one must have material value.
This leads into a clever and funny, if not transparent, scene where the Worker is trying to gain material value but is unable to get ahead due to the circular logic of credit and debt. By the end, playwrights Sterling Lynch and Sam Varteniuk prove, rather sardonically, that it's just too dangerous to go anywhere in this world without some material worth. I think the message here is that if we reflect on how the concept of value started we can clearly see that it's meaningless. So the question remains, why are we still so reliant on this meaningless system?
The Root of All Squares is certainly funny and smart, but I constantly felt like I was getting ahead of the script and I had to wait for it to catch up. The analogy the playwrights use is straightforward and I like that, but for the most part I found the whole concept too obvious. Perhaps it is their intention to make their musings as accessible as possible.
I enjoyed the fast-paced banter and director Dave Dawson does a good job keeping up the snappy pace. Dawson's staging grabbed my attention and really drew me in for the whole show. The actors, Anne Wyman (Stan) and Ray Besharah (Worker), are both good. Besharah, in particular, is hilarious. He has great timing and presence. My eye followed him most of the time.
The Root of All Squares is certainly worth a look. It has a great message and it leaves you with something to think about.