Alma and Baya are two young women living in a survival pod “on a hostile planet” in playwright Edward Einhorn’s engaging futuristic sci-fi opus, Alma Baya. Their codependent existence is upended by the intrusion of a briefly nude “Stranger,” another young woman who has fled her destroyed pod. Mr. Einhorn’s 70-mintue work is a worthy, well-written and resonant addition to the genre. It’s grounded in the eternal precepts of dramatic literature, conflicts among clashing characters.
The smooth knowing dialogue imparts enough exposition detailing the harsh conditions outside the pod, necessitating wearing a space suit and helmet to forage for food. An instruction manual the characters read from gives us more information. The classic plot plays out with accumulating momentum. Einhorn’s direction is an accomplished harnessing of all the elements of stagecraft into a pleasing presentation.
Alma Baya is distinguished by its impressive production design which wondrously theatricalizes what we’re used to from experiencing science fiction on the screen and television. Scenic designer Mike Mroch’s multi-level configuration of geometric white pieces adorned with gadgets is awesome. Besides the striking space suit and helmet, costume designer Ramona Ponce provides snazzy shimmering gray outfits reminiscent of Pierre Cardin. Federico Restrepo’s lighting design in collaboration with Hao Bai is a jolting assemblage of hues, colors and tones. Before the show begins, Mark T Bruckner’s sound design is already arresting with its droning electric cords, later there’s the grand whooshing of air locks opening and closing.
A rotating cast named “A” and “B” perform. “A” was the one who performed at the performance under review. The charismatic Rivera Reese is a feral and poignant Stranger. Girlish and sunny Sheleah Harris is comical and touching as Baya. Anne Marie Yoo’s Alma is appealingly emphatic and stalwart. Together, this trio has a dynamic and moving chemistry.
Such masters of science fiction as Rod Serling and Gene Roddenberry often offered fantastical tales which commented on the present. With its themes of desolation, isolation and struggle for existence, Alma Baya could be viewed as a take on the ongoing pandemic. Several performances are being livestreamed.
Alma Baya (live through August 28, 2021; on demand: August 18 – September 19, 2021)
Untitled Theater Company No. 61
A.R.T./New York’s Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre, 502 West 53rd Street in Manhattan
For tickets, visit http://www.untitledtheater.com
Running time: 70 minutes without an intermission