Whether or not you believe in the Loch Ness Monster will not affect your reaction to Fossils, a slight, entertaining piece that revolves around “Nessie’s” possible existence. Whether or not the quirky appeals, on the other hand…The play is original, well acted and deftly directed. I have no idea what happened at the end, but the trip is fun.
We’re in a laboratory. A glass case ostensibly filled with fossils stands center stage. At either side on stools, are fish tanks with water. Organic findings are represented by plastic dinosaurs often held out as if speaking when characters communicate. This sounds silly but is executed with stylized gravitas.
Adam Farrell, Luke Murphy; Helen Vinten, Adam Farrell
Twelve years ago, when Vanessa (Helen Vinten) was 18, her father disappeared researching the monster with which he was obsessed. The girl was long accustomed to bonding trips at the Loch. Her parent’s unexplained absence left a sink hole. Vanessa became an all-work-no-outside-life evolutionary biologist whose avowed secret vice is late night creationist confrontations in chat rooms.
Working in the lab with her are two PhD Students, Dominic (Adam Farrell) and Myles (Luke Murphy), both looser than their boss. When new images revive interest in the creature, journalists show up at Vanessa’s workplace to ask about her father’s papers.
Technology has changed. Perhaps there’s something new to be found; perhaps there’s something old. If nothing else, the scientist rationalizes, she might get closure. Dominic is conscripted to go on the field trip. She doesn’t tell him where. You guessed it.
The imaging mechanism is a tank filled with wires. Toy boats represent those on which characters ride…in tanks signifying the lake.
Helen Vinten, Luke Murphy
Vanessa does find someone.
Was the last watery disturbance we see, another boat? The reptile? Her father? Did she capsize? Was she drawn to the black waters? And then?
All three actors/musicians are excellent; focused, with just the right demeanor to carry this off. Against formalization, speaking is natural. We buy Vinten’s preoccupation and her desperation, commonality of scientific language among the breed, refuge of intellect, appeal and threat of the fantastic.
Nel Crouch’s direction is terrific. Movement is graceful but regimented – even running in place – yet oddly never stressed. Players shift precisely like a well oiled machine. The story holds – until its quixotic finish.
Luke Murphy, Adam Farrell
Fossils is integrally carried by David Ridley’s bizarre, haunting music and sound design, controlled before our eyes. There’s a harmonium, a Theremin, a violin, a mixing board and a sampler. We hear oooeeee mystery tones, 40 mile an hour winds, rain, bubbles, waves, splashes; a Scottish folk tune sung by Vanessa and several synchronized pop songs contributed by the men. Rebecca Jane Wood’s Set and Costumes and Joe Price’s Lighting serve well. (Lighting the inside of the case works wonderfully.)
Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Adam Farrell, Helen Vinton, Luke Murphy
Fossils by Bucket Club
Directed by Nel Crouch
59 East 59th Street
Through May 14, 2017