Is it enough praise to simply say that shades of Churchill and Ruhl permeate Truth & Beauty Bombs: A Softer World, Rorschach Theatre’s brilliant new play running at Atlas Theatre? No? Then read on, for the kaleidoscopic collage of interconnected stories manages to find reality in the surreal, and uses the poetry of language to steal the hearts of its audience. It intrigues and fulfills, using idiosyncrasies to create ideologies that manage to be profound and personal at the very same time.
Truth & Beauty Bombs takes words and inspiration from the cult web-comic, A Softer World by Emily Horne and Joey Comeau. The comic gained popularity with its darkly sardonic poetry paired with grainy, mundane photographs, and Truth & Beauty Bombs takes its inspiration and runs with it. The play transcends the source material, taking its short poetry and turning it into fantastic tales about humanity. The ironic wit of the comic remains, but it is expounded upon and imbued with a truly gracious pathos.
Aesthetically, too, the play draws from A Softer World’s lo-fi tendencies, but rockets them to new heights. Truth & Beauty Bombs is dirty and grimy. With the audience situated backstage of the Theresa and Jane Lang Theatre, there’s a sense that this world is not one of polish or perfection. Instead, it is one that draws together eclectic pieces to make them whole. That is palpable in every inch of the show, from a costume that is made primarily out of lost socks, to a group of misfits who find family in one another. The play finds beauty in the strange and sympathy in people who couldn’t be described any other way.
“People” is a key word here. For all of its philosophical musings and aesthetic value, it is its people that drives Truth & Beauty Bombs to its core. For a play so brimming with ideas, it never forgets the real characters behind those ideas. Ideas become valuable currency, because they are traded between people who are complex and sympathetic.
Some like jazz, some are in love, some use Laundromats to travel through time and space. But they all feel fully realized, thanks in large part to phenomenal performances across the board from the show’s ensemble cast. Special standouts are Frank Britton, Scott McCormick, and Sara Barker who all bounce off of each other with substance and heart. Their musings are otherworldly, but their relationships are immediate. They – like the show deftly tight walk across the line between philosophy and pathos. For all of the show’s wit, it has equal parts heart, which is important when the discussion is life and death. Because whatever smart ideas you might have, they’re made much more poignant when you actually care who lives and who dies.
TRUTH & BEAUTY BOMBS: A SOFTER WORLD
September 4 – October 4
at Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H Street NE
1 hour, 30 minutes with no intermission
Thursdays thru Sundays
Details and Tickets
It is almost impossible not to feel that sense of sympathy, and yet it is nearly impossible to describe it. In so many ways, Truth & Beauty Bombs is ineffable. It creates its own world and it is an injustice to use the language of our own to describe its reality, full of “tiny, visual haikus.” Truth & Beauty Bombs is made up of these haikus, which have music and meaning hidden between their lines. They present a snapshot of beauty and hint at a world of meaning.
Designers: Brian S. Allard and Mary Keegan (Lights), Brian J. Gillick (Set), Britney Mongold (Props) Gordon Nimmo-Smith (Sound), Erik Teague (Costumes), Catherine Tripp (Audience Experience Designer) with Laura Schlachtmeyer (Stage Manager), Michael Redman (Technical Director), Linda Bard (Assistant Stage Manager), Nathaniel Collard (Assistant Lighting Designer) . Produced by Rorschach Theatre . Reviewed by Sean Craig.