nytheatre.com review by Victoria Linchong
June 14, 2012
There is a spaceship at Collapsible Hole. No that’s not a poetic metaphor. There really is a spaceship. It’s silver and it lights up and it’s the set for Space//Space, Banana Bag and Bodice’s ingenious revamp of existential drama, a sort of sci-fi No Exit that turns Sartre’s famous observation upside down: hell is not other people, it’s no one at all.
Hell is also not an Empire-style drawing room; it’s a spaceship hurtling through vast infinity. Two brothers—rabbits or maybe not—have been launched into space as scientific experiments, with nothing but a stack of classical records and an endless supply of tasty sandwiches that come from a mysterious hatch, which seems to be a distant benevolent cousin of The Dumbwaiter.
Introduced by a twitchy, rubber-faced, apologetic Peter Blomquist, we watch as the two brothers devolve even as they evolve. One falls into a deep sleep for three years and wakes up to discover that he is now a she, leading to strange and uncomfortable possibilities that he finally learns to embrace. Meanwhile, the other brother ages and physically deteriorates after three years of desperately trying to keep himself company by cracking bad jokes to a scratchy tape recorder. And I mean very bad. “I’m dying up here,” he repeats continually and his comedy routine reflects it. Confronting their mortality, sexuality, and most of all, their devastating need for social interaction, Space//Space is ultimately a profound and poignant exploration on what makes us human—blundering misogynistic jokes and all.
The fantastic cast is comprised of Jessica Jelliffe and Jason Craig, who also wrote the script. Directed by Mallory Catlett, they find a pitch-perfect balance between humor and pathos, even while wearing giant purple and grey bunny outfits designed by Enver Chakartash. The play also features a brilliant design team. Projections of X’s and O’s and neon sandwiches created by video designer Zbigniew Bzymek provide the illusion of whizzing through space. Music by Dave Malloy punctuates the play, sometimes ethereally and sometimes dissonantly. Malloy also provides a sardonic soundscape that includes wry comments, canned laughter, and Edith Piaf.
Banana Bag and Bodice is easily one of the most fiercely intelligent experimental theater companies in New York. Previous plays have included Sandwich, a Christmas musical about the joy and tragedy of meat eating, and Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage, which somehow turns the ancient epic poem into a feminist tragedy. Space//Space is as brilliant as these other productions. Plumbing humanity through the isolation of two bunnies in space, it’s at once an introspective and a far-out trip.