Background radiation

In Perpetuity Throughout the Universe

By Eric Overmyer
Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel
Nicuís Spoon, Inc.
Pantheon Theatre
303 West 42nd St. (866-468-7619)
Equity showcase (closes Nov. 3)
Review by Jenny Sandman

"How can you explain the world without a conspiracy theory?" exclaims Christine in Eric Overmyerís In Perpetuity Throughout the Universe, newly presented by Nicuís Spoon. A valid point; In Perpetuity is a vast conglomerate of interwoven conspiracy theories, neatly turned into a play. Nothing can be explained or experienced without one. The Chinese mafia, intergalactic pyramid builders, CIA-sponsored heroin rings, AIDS as biological warfare run amok; all the most popular conspiracy theories are trotted out here under the umbrella of a "marginal" publisher, Montage Publishing. Montage is the sort of publisher that puts out books no one else will touch -- books about Aryan supremacy and Vatican intrigues to rule the world and the like. Christine Penderecki is a ghostwriter for Montage, working on the latest novel of a radical Aryan writer. His new book is about what used to be known as "the Yellow Peril"; itís coming along well, but like all stories involving a conspiracy, hers turns sinister and the theories that are rampant at her workplace become indistinguishable from her reality. Or so she thinks. Eventually, the many characters and subplots and ominous twists combine to form a Gordian knot of conspiracies.

It is a play about "the great American yearning for an extraterrestrial solution," about our passion for any theory that doesnít depend on omnipresent randomness as the guiding force of the universe. Overmyerís writing is heady and tantalizing as always, an exercise in linguistic machinations, and the performances were vibrant, especially Natily Blair as Christine Penderecki, Andrew T. Lee as Dennis Wu, and Tai-tung Tranh and Eris Migliorini as a host of people. Tim Roselle, Natasha Piletitch, and Jim Williams completed the excellent cast.

But the stark black-box set (by Blair Mielnik) was so oppressive that it detracted from the superiority of the text and cast. The largely dark costumes (by Trevor McGinness) didnít help. Fortunately, creative movement within the box and clever directing lessened the effects a bit. The lighting (by Charles Foster) weirdly seemed to fall in the blackness of the set, not illuminating much of anything. Perhaps it was a metaphor for the black hole of conspiracy theories, which sucks in even the most reasonable of people -- but probably it wasnít. The sound (by Walter Trarback), in comparison, was much more effective.

In Perpetuity was originally written in 1988, and it is scary how current it sounds and how relevant its subject matter still is. Conspiracy theories may be a "taste-free assertion," as Overmyer puts it, but the public will always be fascinated by lurid justifications of anything. This play and production were a highly enjoyable and thought-provoking experience.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2002 Jenny Sandman