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Alma Baya

There’s a battle of wills and of survival among three young women in this engaging, charmingly performed and impressively presented futuristic sci-fi opus.

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Anne Marie Yoo, Sheleah Harris and Rivera Reese in a scene from Edward Einhorn’s “Alma Bayer” at A.R.T./New York’s Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre (Photo credit: Arthur Cornelius)

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

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.

Rivera Reese, Sheleah Harris and Anne Marie Yoo in a scene from Edward Einhorn’s “Alma Bayer” at A.R.T./New York’s Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre (Photo credit: Arthur Cornelius)

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.

Rivera Reese and Sheleah Harris in a scene from Edward Einhorn’s “Alma Bayer” at A.R.T./New York’s Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre (Photo credit: Arthur Cornelius)

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

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Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (752 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for Theaterscene.net.

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