The production was shot on site in the countryside/woods before a live socially distanced audience whom we see at the start. Characters move from the house to its grounds. Those in attendance wear earphones. Sound (terrific storm!) lighting, and camera work are pristine. This is a streamed performance.
We’re sometime in the future. Stella (Diana Oh) and Bryan (Gabriel Brown) live off the grid in a very small, wood and glass house (marvelous design.) They grow most of their own food and have disconnected from tech except for an electric car, phone, and radio. In fact, Bryan is an EA = Earth Advocate – against tech, cloning, printed food…Stella is adapting. Bryan is affectionate, verbal, and upbeat. Stella is finding her footing, wrestling with something in her past, she keeps to herself. They’ve known one another about a year and plan to marry.
Millions have died from climate change. Resources are vastly diminished. There are tsunamis. The planet is channeling financial resources, perhaps too late, into testing colonization of the moon and Mars. EAs are against this. Money should, they believe, be used to rescue what of our planet can be salvaged. There are demonstrations. The movement is shifting to small communities outside cities. Air is clean where the couple have settled. How long will it be before our reality (fully) resembles theirs?
Stella’s younger sister, Cassie (Yeena Yi), a molecular botanist just returned from a year on the moon, is coming to visit. The young women are estranged, awkward. Cassie is surprised how much her sister has changed. It seems their father was an astronaut. Both were raised (and trained) with only that goal in mind. Stella had been a NASA architect in the astronaut training program (a revelation to Bryan), but left the organization under a cloud.
Cassie is skeptical of both her sister’s fiancé and the belief system by which she and Bryan live. There are discussions, arguments -some familiar; lines are drawn in the sand. Research is evident. Relationships feel authentic. The astronaut has been offered an enormous, life-changing job and is agonizing over whether to accept. Stella has yet to make peace with her own future. Weighing each other’s choices, both women are swayed. Stella thinks back on the taste of duty, adventure. Cassie recalls she never felt human on the moon. Fresh commitments must be made.
Playwright Amy Berryman offers a look at topical issues through unusual personal alternatives. Though set one step ahead in time, possibilities are relevant, balanced, and credible. We’re concerned with humans here, not just politics. The play revs up too slowly which may be direction and is in itself, somewhat too long. Editing exposition would serve. It is however, well written, occasionally gripping, and uncomfortably apropos.
Director Mei Ann Teo gives us entirely natural characters, each with his own manner and tempo. Talk is attentive, incendiary disagreements well played and never over the top. Evolution of relationships is skillfully signaled.
Diana Oh’s Stella is believably, frustratingly stolid until she erupts. Resolution is hard won. Yeena Yi’s Cassie is discernibly needy, seeming to regress beside her older sibling. Signs of the capable, focused scientist would make the character more as her life describes. Gabriel Brown seems organically warm, calm, supportive, secure in his life path. As if he walked off the street this way.
Henry David Thoreau’s time in Walden Woods became a model of deliberate and ethical living. He said, “With all your science can you tell how it is — & whence it is, that light comes into the soul?”
Photos by Christopher Coppezielloo
TheaterWorks Hartford presents
Walden by Amy Berryman
Directed by Mei Ann Teo
Featuring Diana Oh, Yeena Yi, Gabriel Brown
Set -You-Shin Chen
Costumes- Alice Tavener
Lighting- Jeanette O-Suk Yew
Sound Hao Bai
Video- Miceli Productions
THROUGH AUGUST 29, 2021