A lively cast comprised of Harrison Unger, Caturah Brown, Tay Bass and Jonathan Cruz not only deliver exceptional performances during the inconsequential Or, An Astronaut Play, they also demonstrate physical prowess. Continually hauling props and minimal furnishings about during its numerous brief scenes, this ensemble heroically aid in realizing the transitions. Alas, their commendable efforts are stymied by an unsatisfying play. The biggest laugh is gotten by the sight of a 1950’s B-movie-type space explorer helmet made out of cardboard.
The relationship of a heterosexual couple in their 20’s who work as corporate analysts grows strained when they both become students at a U.S. private sector school for astronauts. This academy’s officious admissions official and an eccentric man complete the quartet of familiar characters striving to be sent into space.
Author Johnny G. Lloyd’s viable premise is unrealized by his scattershot treatment. Halfway through the uninvolving stale serio-comic clunkiness, the 80-minute play then offers hints of satirical achievement as we learn of the odious company’s downsizing. This policy includes the unseen chief instructor being let go, and that now only one person will be sent on a space mission.
Mr. Lloyd doesn’t really take up this competitive angle and so there’s the continued listless trajectory accompanied by slick jokey dialogue. Still, there are traces of a pungent take on tyrannical industrial hegemony. However, that is let down by a drawn out wan finale of having the chosen one’s solitary intergalactic journey tiresomely dotted with shades of Samuel Beckett and Stanley Kubrick during a philosophical reverie.
A smart production compensates as much as possible for Or, An Astronaut Play’s dramatic deficiencies. Director William Steinberger’s expertly fast-paced presentation makes the piece stageworthy and visually appealing. Izmir Ickbal’s spare gray scenic design achieves a cool futuristic look that’s enhanced by Rebecca LeVine’s simple yet effective props and spacy graphic design. Lighting designer Bailey Costa and sound designer Brian Hickey’s crafty contributions add a science fiction-style sheen. A selection of well-chosen street clothes are the hallmarks of Barbara Erin Delo’s fine costume design.
This world premiere production of Or, An Astronaut Play has flashes of potential but not enough of them in its present form.
Or, An Astronaut Play (through January 26, 2020)
The Tank, 312 West 36th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit http://www.inversiontheatre.com
Running time: 80 minutes without an intermission