Saturday, September 22, 2012

"800 Words: The Transmigration of Philip K. Dick" from Caravan Theatre

"800 Words: The Transmigration of Philip K. Dick" wades into the arcane mind of the often misunderstood science fiction writer as he struggles to live through his last days, his experience with meeting God, and the transformation of one of his novels into the film Bladerunner."

Let it be said, "800 Words" is a play about ideas, just as Philip K. Dick was a lover, transcriptor of psychedelic, scientific and religious epiphanies. That being said, the play moves in an out through episodes of Dick's life to dissertations on theology and art to the fragile strings of his psychology, where even time is anything but linear. That being said, the play has a tendency to ramble and repeat with the actors going along for the ride rather than creating new explorations of some scenes that are ultimately the same.

Philip K. Dick is played by John Gresh who brings the complex character into the most human light imaginable. The "SF" writer is affluent in language and affable in demeanor. You instantly want to share one of his beers and listen to Linda Ronstadt with him, making all his triumphs and failures all the more personal. Also another high point of the show, Tony Bingham as Stan Lem, a Polish, Marxist book publisher and Secret Agent Man brings an amazing mix of comic timing, energy and physical prowess to his quick-switching roles.

Pittsburgh up-and-comer Lily Davis plays several female roles and makes a lot of what could be seen as simply "jail bait" characters like Philip's underage grug supplier and a Marxist "incentive" named Gertrude. Likewise, Diana Ifft brings a lot in one of the play's most random tangents, although the entire scene could be cut from the piece with little or no reprecussions.

There are some problems with the show. The video aspects of the show are dismal to say the least, with random words flying by - mostly illegibly - and a "VIDEO" projection box in the right hand corner popping up on set. Similarly, there is lack of sound design (which is very different from just playing a song as background music) leaves some scenes feeling empty and oddly quiet, and puppetry of the piece is sloppy at many points - including some puppets being left dead onstage with their insides poking out.

Despite the unimpressive technical aspects of the show, there are a hundred reason to see Caravan's Theatre latest work. Lovers of Philip's work will be delighted with the piece, and noy-yet-fans will definately leave inspired to pick up one of his 44 novels or 121 short stories. Open-minded audiences will also be treated to a theatrical experience that asks dynamic questions of which the only answer is, there are more questions.    

Tickets for "800 Words: The Transmigration of Philip K. Dick" can be purchased here: http://caravantheatreofpittsburgh.com/Caravan_Theatre_of_Pittsburgh/Welcome.html

-The Eponymous Theatre Critic is alone on a smoldering planet surrounded by nothing but stacks and stacks of books and a single broken pair of glasses at Epony's feet.   

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