Friday, February 23, 2018

“Disintegration Loops: Tales of the Uncanny” at Garmany Hall

By Malcom Moon ’15

Contributing Writer

From November 21 through the 23, Garmany Hall at Austin Arts Center showcased the performance, “Disintegration Loops Part 2: Tales of the Uncanny.” The play told a “story of two men engaged in a scientific experiment to reshape history. By reenacting a past catastrophe, they hoped to create a future filled with hope and love. Yet memory and perception affected their attempts to recapture time.”

Directed by Professor Mitch Polin, Associate Professor of Theatre and Dance, the play featured student actors Lily Kernan ’14, Aadya Pandey ’17, Allen Rios ’17, Schirin Schenkermayr ’16, Dan Trainor ’17 and Dominic Yao ’15, who each brilliantly performed their roles. Their performance, coupled with the stage setting and the lighting and sound effects created an intriguing, and thought provoking world.

Garmany Hall, a versatile space was interestingly transformed to allow the audience to surround the performance space, creating a greater sense of engagement and intimacy with the actors.  The stage exuded a laboratory-like feel, given the minimalistic set, and the overwhelming use of white. At the very center of the stage was a large, box-shaped machine (the time machine). The arrangement of white chairs around the stage was curious in that the chairs closer to the machine were complete chairs while those further away had broken back rests. This arrangement was meant to parallel the formation of a crystal. The white flooring of the stage also had markings that were similar to those on a microchip, suggesting that the entire performance was going to take place on a microchip. Among other things, an object on stage that seemed to stand out was a jug of water that was strangely lit up in blue. Although the set- up of the audience surrounding the stage created a sense of closure between the performance and the viewers, the setting and the story being depicting had a distancing effect as they compelled one to actively think and assimilate what was being depicted. Unsurprisingly, one would say that given it was a play directed by Polin, it was fascinating, yet confusing.

Through the use of dual roles and depictions of parallel situations, the actors portrayed the characters of Chris, Aaren, Alex, and a scientist. The play opened with a scene depicting the scientist (played by Yao) attempting to control and test the extent to which he is able to manipulate Chris (played by Schenkermayr).  He is able to do this by feeding her a bug. He then proceeds to tell her that her mother was abducted by a group of men and that she has to pay them a ransom. He does this to extract money out of her, and she willing signs multiple cheques without questioning anything he says. He also makes her read a passage about civil disobedience by Thoreau that explains how one shouldn’t obey something unless they truly believe in the motives of what is asked of them. It is ironic that although she repeats this passage, it has no impact on her as she doesn’t, or rather is unable to stand up to the scientist.

Similar to the situation between Chris and the scientist, is the experiment that Aaren (Portrayed by Kernan and Trainor) and Alex (portrayed by Rios and Pandey) have set up, in that they attempt to go back in time. They do this in order to be able to go back in history and change it. While it starts off as a fun experiment, Aaren has the realization that he is able to go back in time more than once. Through this ability, he is able to go back to when Chris was being controlled by the scientist. He pursues a relationship with Chris and wants, and believes that he can save her from the scientist.

Throughout Aarens’ attempts to go back in time, Alex comes across as a good and helpful friend in the way he attempts to keep him within reality, and is understanding of his relationship with Chris. At the end, as Aaren goes back multiple times to observe what the scientist has been doing to Chris, he tries to explain to Chris how he has figured out how to trigger the situation. Yet, as Chris begins to notice cuts in Aarens’ arms that are familiar to her, it becomes clear that Aaren is not able to keep the promises he made to Chris (that he would save her) because he himself is under the influence and control of the scientist. Aaren ends up having been a victim of the scientist’s manipulation without even realizing it.

Although the use of scientific jargon and numbers can be distracting, the play seems to ultimately be about human relationships and hierarchical structures within people. The experiment within the world of the play is time travel, but the fact that the entire play takes place on a microchip raises the possibility of the entire set up to be an experiment in itself. This is fascinating, given the revelation that it was the scientist who was really in control of the time travel experiment, much to the oblivion of Aaren and Alex.

Finally, as a sequel to Disintegration Loops I, which was performed last spring, it was interesting to note how the play also depicted different fragments of time and how memory and perception affect relationships. The most direct, yet subtle connection between the two plays was the presence of the sign board that read “Elephants Only” that was also used in Disintegration Loops I.

Congratulations to the Cast and Crew of “Disintegration Loops II: Tales of the Uncanny!”

 

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