When my husband, Donald MacLennan, a brilliant physicist whom I adored, passed away in 2014, I decided to renew his subscription to Physics Today. I felt his presence guiding my hand as I made out the check and mailed it. I’m glad now that I did.
A September 2015 article looms out, “Stephen Hawking’s latest physics pronouncements inspire wide attention,” that simplifies physicist Jacob Bekenstein’s revolutionary theory about “the black hole paradox.” Bekenstein, who died last August, made headlines among theoretical physicists, by arguing with Stephen Hawking’s claim that information sucked into the interior of a black hole is destroyed forever.
Reading this article opened a door for me to the far-out science fiction in Inheritance Canyon, Taffety-Punk’s contribution to the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. The comedy by Liz Maestri is now staged and directed by Lise Bruneau, one of the founding members of the avant garde company, Taffety Punk. at the Capitol Hill Arts Theatre Workshop in South East Washington D.C. .
Hawking has changed his mind about information evaporating inside the black hole, and proposes that Bekenstein’s theory may be possible. Hawking now accepts the idea that information could be fragmented and reorganized on the horizon, in a four-dimensional region and may emerge in another universe.. Nothing is lost. So parallel universes exist. That is our immortality. (The movie Interstellar played with the idea.)
Maestri’ Inheritance Canyon definitely toys with the idea of parallel universes. The fledgling playwright bravely speculates that three human beings who are sucked into a black hole can survive. And we are presented with a wildly imaginative staging of the rollicking result of a space-time travel event. What’s effectively unsettling is the way Bruneau’s direction for a thrust stage puts us in the 50-seat black box in the middle of the environment, described by dramaturg, Catherine Ritter, as “wibbly-wobbly-ness.”
The problem is that this is science-fiction. There is no proof that anything like this exists. But the wacky German astro-physicist, Dr. Jens Kroger (Dan Crane), from Munich, is keen to prove it does. A dysfunctional trio of friends, Shell (Esther Williamson), a hyped-with-ambition star gazer, who scans the skies with binoculars; Sal (Teresa Castracane), who likes to tipple and coach rock-star singer, Gary, (James Flanagan), are his chosen earthlings. Shell, Sal and Gary have stepped inside a portal in space-time, traveled through a black hole to an isolated camp site in the Hollywood Hills, an absurdity in the 4th dimension.
It has to be Hollywood because there’s a parallel subplot. Gary is trying to make it as a star in Hollywood as a rock star impersonator. And actor James Flanagan’s satiric send-ups of a wanna-be rock sensation, Olivia Newton Dawn, are hilarious.
Overall, the play is an outrageous, light-hearted spoof of stuffy academia, and scientific research. But the funniest, most entertaining part of the entire piece, that will make you laugh out loud, comes in the last sequence (like dessert at a lavish banquet), in which Shell #1, on Earth, (Esther Williamson,) confronts her alter ego Shell #2, (Gwen Grastorf,) from an altered reality in a parallel universe. One of them has to go. Both cannot exist in the same space- time dimension.
Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival
September 18 – October 10
at Capital Hill Arts Workshop
545 7th Street, SE
2 hours with 1 intermission
Wednesdays thru Saturdays
As in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein story, the mad scientist’s creations are monsters who want love and acceptance. They want to be more than mere specimens. The threesome rebel against their creator and develop powerful, independent personalities of their own. Meanwhile Dr. Kroger protests, “You are specimens. That’s all.” Basically, that’s all you need to know to understand what happens when human beings are pushed to their limits. What do they reveal about themselves? How can humans exist in a universe as cruel as ours? And these are the key questions the play tries to answer.
Inheritance Canyon is still in development. It needs tightening. But Maestri has launched a controversial hypothesis, worth pondering and developing. I loved it.
Inheritance Canyon by Liz Maestri . Directed by Lise Bruneau . Featuring Teresa Castracane, Dan Crane, James Flanagan, Gwen Grastorf, Morgan Sendek, and Esther Williamson . Produced by Taffety Punk . Reviewed by Rosalind Lacy.