You may howl with laughter, bursting at the seams, as The Singularity by Crystal Jackson unfolds, refolds and expands during Shelterbelt Theatre’s take on it. Director Beth Thompson and a pitch- perfect cast have nailed it to the wall, the signpost up ahead, crossing over into yet another twilight zone.
Jackson’s well-honed satire could be called science-fiction, given that science-fiction is often a look into future evolutions of present day society. But don’t expect special effects. The focus is on spaced-out characters interacting with one woman whose feet seem on the ground, at least temporarily.
Jackson says that she doesn’t intend to deal with technological singularity (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity) but it becomes clear that she is making such statements nonetheless. Automated dire- warning screen projections, proliferating gender ambiguity, pre-programmed pagers, a telephone ear plug, a tablet-sized portable X-ray machine, the viability of a human/ape hybrid, lab samples of dark matter from the vastness of the universe, virgin birth. Seek and ye shall find where we could be going.
Jackson’s set-up: no longer-young Astrid’s birth-making eggs are soon to scramble and dissolve. Astrid desperately wants to get pregnant while there’s still time. In the course of her search for a donor, she encounters a bunch of nuts….not the salty kind. Failing to connect with a viable man, she dips into that pilfered dark matter and from it gets pregnant at warp speed.
This trip through the light fantastic lands the would-be mom in a hospital where a lawyer probes her gynecological possibilities and a doctor offers her non-medical life-enhancements. When Astrid is denied help due to lapsed insurance, a strange nurse suggests the special services of Dr. Jim’s open -all-night clinic where the nurse moonlights. Cut-rate medical procedures. Where plastic surgery could mean using non-metal cutlery. Bob’s there to get rid of a fully-functioning limb which he doesn’t want. And won’t have to pay an arm and a leg for the service. At a sleazy, smoky bar Astrid gets picked up by a shy, apprentice scientist, subject to barbaric yawps, who took some of his work home with him, a box of dark matter plucked out of the universal void for study. Amid a discussion about a successful cross-breeding of gorilla to human, Astrid sees the possibility for conjoining with another species, even though the creature in question went berserk yielding to a human propensity for violence. What happens next takes on dimensions to ponder. Jackson’s program notes suggest where this is heading. Could there be another Kubrick/Clarke Star Child on the horizon?
Director Elizabeth Thompson gets her three doubling men to play the loonyness with great style. And she paces the whole thing with vim, her inventive fillips adding to the fun. Craig Bond’s version of the incipient one-armed mental case has just the right belief in his own sanity. As the off-the wall nurse, Will Muller’s body language captures the essence. The Scientist’s amusing innocence portrayed by Jon Roberson come across with simple sincerity. As for MaryBeth Adams’ playing of Astrid, she succeeds well in staying close to normal, never led far astray despite the craziness she encounters. Plus Cristina Byrne and Shannon Smay have created remarkably adept videos.
By the way, this script was seen and heard at the Great Plains Theatre Conference in 2013. Then Boston’s Science Fiction Theatre Company officially debuted it last year. Jackson’s work has also been developed and produced in New York by EstroGenius, GLO, and Gene Frankel Theatre, with other performances in San Francisco, Dallas, Houston and beyond. (https://about.me/cryjack)
(Full disclosure: I acted in a Shelterbelt play directed by Thompson where Bond and Muller were in the cast.)
Oh, yes, there are things to read into this. As the wonderful funny stuff subsides, there’s a message waiting for you if you care to pick it up.
The Singularity plays through Oct. 25 at Shelterbelt Theatre, 3225 California St. Omaha. Fri-Sat : 8 p.m. Thurs (10/8-22) 8p.m. Sun: 6 p.m (10/25: 2 p.m.) Tickets: $12-15. www.shelterbelt.org