Jason Craig and Jessica Jelliffe in SPACE//SPACE. Photo by Ryan Jensen.
BOTTOM LINE: What do you get the theatre fan who’s seen everything? A ticket to this avant-garde sci-fi “play-show,” which boasts a fantastic look, excellent sound, winning performances, and unsettling ideas.
Unless you’re already a fan of Banana Bag & Bodice, you probably haven’t seen many, or any, plays like Space//Space. This experimental company is currently performing their newest show at the Collapsable [sic] Hole, a theatre that looks like it was once a garage and hasn’t changed much since. The simplicity of the surroundings provides an effective contrast to the impeccably designed, densely layered production itself.
I consider myself a pretty smart person, but I can’t give you a succinct description of what this play is “about.” I can summarize the plot — two brothers, trapped in a small spacecraft for years upon years, find themselves, and their relationship, changing in unforeseeable ways — but that’s only scratching the surface. It’s just not an easily described experience, and that’s completely intentional. While Space//Space isn’t light entertainment, it is funny, as well as disturbing, beautiful, and unexpectedly poignant.
Jason Craig and Jessica Jelliffe play the brothers, who are not astronauts but simply hapless volunteers who have been blasted out into the universe inside what seems like a time capsule of Earth intended for extraterrestrials to find. Their ship is described unromantically as a “storage container,” but visually, it evokes a DJ booth, the inside of a TV set, a gerbil cage, and the transporter Jeff Goldblum built in The Fly. Goldblum’s character unexpectedly transforms into a giant insect, like Kafka’s Gregor Samsa, and metamorphosis takes place in this tale as well, as one of the siblings, having slept for the first several years of the journey, wakes up to find he has become a she. Wide awake and lonely, the other man has passed the time listening to audio recordings stored and sent along with them in the spacecraft, which has inspired him to develop an incredibly hackneyed stand-up comedy routine.
Craig and Jelliffe’s performances, guided by Mallory Catlett’s direction, make what could seem like a random explosion of craziness feel purposeful and emotionally resonant. The creative team has done top-notch design work, particularly Zbigniew Bzymek, who created the video projections, and Dave Malloy, who contributed the sound. Space//Space covers a lot of ground in just over an hour, so you won’t feel like you’re trapped in a claustrophobia-inducing spaceship (at least, not for too long). However, you will be drawn into a nebula of ideas about identity, memory, gender and love that has room for humor as well. Luckily, you can return from this voyage, though like the fraternal protagonists, you’ll feel different by the end.
(Space//Space plays at The Collapsable Hole, 146 Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, through July 1, 2012. Performances are Thursdays at 8PM; Fridays at 8PM; Saturdays at 8PM; and Sundays at 7PM. Tickets are $15-$25 and are available at bananabagandbodice.org or by calling 866-811-4111.)