Other Than We – The Making of Post-Homo Sapiens

“The level of radiation and pollution outside the Dome remain lethal.”  

There can hardly be a clearer statement to set the scenery. We are in a bad, harsh, dystopian, yet easily imaginable future where few survive. Only the elite and a small group of those who serve them are allowed to stay. Michelle (Lisa Birnbaum), an obstetrician, and Eve (Emily Fury Daly) a neuroscientist, are lucky to be within the Dome’s hermetically preserved safety. They are also lucky to have each other—they are lovers. But safety comes with obligations.

“We are on a mandatory list to conceive, both of us,” Michelle says. She knows about these things. She implants eggs into wombs—and takes them out when they don’t graft—fetuses, preemies with under-developed brains. Females who can no longer bear children are thrown outside the Dome. “Women are wearing out,” Michelle says. “Artificial wombs would terminate the issue, but the placenta to-date is not replicable.”

Tommie J. Moore

In this dire status quo, the human race is clearly threatened. Yet, no matter the circumstance, people find reasons and ways to hate and kill, with Nazi-like proclamations, “the Dome belongs to me!” Humans, it seems, are doomed no matter what. Can our species be enhanced to become better? Michelle and Eve dare to think so.  And so the two lovers concoct an audacious plan to alter their offspring—with the help of another brave soul, Tenaka (Tommie J. Moore), a former physician from Africa who lost his wife and children in “the deluge.”

Some planning, a few needles, a surgical procedure—and the eggs Eve and Michelle are incubating are “improved” with the extra features the trio thinks will amend the highly imperfect Homo sapiens. As a result, the little creatures might also grow some horns and hooves, but their parents believe this will only improve their survival chances on a hot, polluted, flooding and burning planet.  

George Bartenieff and Emily Fury Daly

But the Dome’s rules clearly won’t permit this to happen, so the mothers-to-be must venture out onto Earth to carry their creations full term. Their furry offspring will need a teacher to absorb all of the humanity’s existing knowledge. So Eve recruits her grandfather Opa (George Bartenieff) and the four fugitives make their way onto the planet’s wild outdoors, hoping to live long enough to give birth to a new race of humans. That new race will be different from us. It will be Other Than We. 

Written by Karen Malpede in the months following Trump’s election, and directed by Bob Balaban, Other Than We reaches outside the boundaries of the known and familiar. Fittingly staged at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, it questions the origins of consciousness and thrives on the thrill of creating a better human species.

Witty and clever, the script does not attempt to draw a complete picture of this dystopian reality, but rather paints broad strokes of gloom and doom, leaving spectators to fill in the blanks with their imagination. Why was the neuroscientist demoted?  Was the radiation-free puree really radiation free? And while we may not be convinced that one can imbue developing fetuses with post-Homo sapiens’ features, we want to believe that mending our species is indeed possible—along with birthing furry babies on a barren hot earth, recovering from environmental catastrophies. We want our species to persist—even if in a new unfamiliar form! 

Can the quartet of fugitives accomplish their outlandish goal?  That, too, is left to one’s interpretation.

Photo Credit: Beatriz Schiller

Top photo: Emily Fury Daly, Lisa Birnbaum, Tommy

Other Than We
Written by Karen Malpede
Directed by Bob Balaban
LaMaMa Downstairs
Music and Sound design by Arthur Rosen
Set design by Donald Eastman
Costumes by Sally Ann Parsonsand Carisa Kelly
Lighting Design by Tony Giovanetti
Movement by Beth Graczyk
Poster Design by Luba Lukova
Production Stage Manager: Alex Williamson