Directed by Suzanne Willett, Jacob Louchheim, and Broderick Ballatyne
Produced by Will It Productions
Off Off Broadway, Movement/Devised Theater
Ran through 8.28.18
The Players Theater, 115 MacDougal Street
by Sarah Weber on 9.1.18
Jacob Louchheim, Tay Bass, Stephanie Cha, Broderick Ballantyne, Suzanne Willett, Jennifer Marinelli,
and Derya Cellikol in Chaos/Absolute Zero. Photo by Emily Hewitt.
BOTTOM LINE: A movement piece that explores how chaos theory and absolute zero can apply to psychology all while telling the story of Snow White.
If there is a thing or concept that exists, chances are there’s a field of science that attempts to explain how it works. Even that which seems arbitrary is probably poked and prodded by scientists and mathematicians. Take for instance chaos theory—the study of, well, chaos, and if it’s actually more predictable than it seems. Chaos theory has wide applications in fields such as physics, meteorology, economics, and even philosophy. So how might this apply to art and psychology? Will It Productions explores this very question in their new devised movement piece Chaos/Absolute Zero.
Co-directed by Suzanne Willett, Jacob Louchheim, and Broderick Ballatyne, the play addresses two key ideas: chaos theory and absolute zero. The latter is a temperature so low that nature’s fundamental particles have a complete absence of heat and motion. Scientists have come close to achieving absolute zero, but it’s very difficult. The cast uses movement and audio to explore principals from these studies, all while telling the story of Snow White.
The fairy tale seems secondary to the science in this piece, at least for the first half. The show is made up of several movements, such as “Solitude/Intimacy,” which is (according to the program) inspired by the “attractor pendulum.” Similarly, “Manipulation” is a riff off of the butterfly effect. In each of these movements, the cast uses dance and speech to exemplify certain themes. Chaos theory attempts to find patterns, so sometimes the performers dance in unity. In other sections they move at their own, seemingly random pace, but there are still inherent patterns to be found. For instance, at one point a green apple is placed center stage, and the longer the apple stays there, the more the performers’ movements revolve around it, as if it’s a magnet, with the performers pulling away from and giving in to its pull.
To help the audience understand everything the are also bits of audio that explain both chaos theory and absolute zero. However, these explanations were almost impossible to hear at the performance I attended (with such a short run, it can be difficult to perfect the sound design). And unless you can read the program notes throughout the show, this makes it a struggle to follow along.
As a result, the movements that zero in on Snow White’s story are the most engaging because they are grounded in something familiar. It’s a pity, considering the story gains almost no momentum until the second half when one of the actors, Derya Cellikol, is transformed into the queen, and there’s a sense of actual personalities on stage. Cellikol enters the stage with only a few new costume pieces, including a black choker and gloves. The queen seems to possess the other performers, turning them against Snow White (Stephanie Cha) for a time, all while exploring the behavior of particles through different stages of cooling.
A devised piece about any one of these topics—chaos theory, absolute zero, Snow White—could be fascinating. Putting these all together takes a significant amount of development and time. Although the result isn't quite cohesive (yet), it will be interesting to see how Chaos/Absolute Zero evolves.
(Chaos/Absolute Zero played at The Players Theater, 115 MacDougal Street, on August 27 and 28, 2018. Running time was 80 minutes. Performances were at 7:30. For more information visit chaosabsolutezero.com.)
Chaos/Absolute Zero is directed by Suzanne Willett, Jacob Louchheim, and Broderick Ballatyne. Lighting Designer, Sound Designer, and Stage Manager is Elizabeth Emond.
The cast is Suzanne Willett, Broderick Ballantyne, Jacob Louchheim, Tay Bass, Derya Cellikol, Stephanie Cha, Olivia Lodge, Jennifer Marinelli, and Sandra Kluge.