BWW Reviews: Source Festival's Enthralling SCIENCE AND SOULMATES is Not to Be Missed

Science and Soulmates may sound like the subject of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode. It's also the title of a riveting play cycle at Cultural DC's Source Festival. Featuring six effectively and economically staged 10-minute plays, the wide use of the term science allows the plays to explore the affinity between two creatures.

The fun in attending a 10-minute play cycle is the obvious - you're introduced to an assortment of stories, characters and playwrights in a brief period. Science and Soulmates is no different.

Artistic Director Jenny McConnell Frederick has wisely choosen plays which range from intense (Limit: A Function of Word and Thought) and heart wrenching (Dissection) to satirical (Both Sides, Now) and wacky (The Physics of Now). Each is well acted with enthralling storytelling and the Source's in-the-round seating creates an intimate environment for the experience.

You will leave Science and Soulmates reflecting on at least some, if not all, of the plays and the points they raise. We see the science of soulmates explored in a variety of manners including, metaphorical, existential and philosophical. All provide a different perspective on the cycle's themes.

Directed by Jenna Duncan, Stephen Spotswood's intense and raw Dissection follows Maggie (Jennifer Osborn) as she explores the relationship with her estranged wife Jennifer (Aaren Keith). Osborn holds a small scalpel, and moves it across Keith. With each slice, tiny artifacts representing events from their relationship are revealed - the sand from a vacation or the room card from the night they first consummated their love.

Osborn and Keith are astounding together and achieve an incredible level of depth portraying this anguished couple in an all too brief 10 minutes. Duncan has Osborn and Keith circle each other, building the tension as each dissection reveals a facet of their relationship. Spotswood's concept is engrossing and Dissection seems worthy of a full-length expansion.

In Alison Donnelly's Limit: A Function of Word and Thought, Vi (Farah Lawal Harris) and Ef (Seth Rosenke) are about to be in a car crash. Just before it happens, they reconstruct their relationship and ultimately its conclusion through a kinetic wordplay. Harris and Rosenke, directed by Nick Martin, bring a necessary urgency to the piece and their passionate back-and-forth succinctly reveals their experience together.

The lighter side of Science and Soulmates is explored in Act II with Alex Dremann's The Physics of Now and Elizabeth Archer's Both Sides, Now. In Dremann's play, college students Dagney (Tori Boutin) and Jake (Frank Cervarich) have been studying time travel in the library. Their minds turn to naughtier thoughts. As they undress, future versions of themselves (Kimberlee Wolfson and Michael Sigler) appear revealing the fortune of their relationship.

The Physics of Now, featuring Bridget Grace Sheaff's direction, has the feel of an awkward, yet funny, teen comedy. Sort of National Lampoons meets Doctor Who. But leaves you asking yourself, what would you do? Boutin, Cervarich, Sigler and Wolfson display split-second comedic instincts as the future versions of themselves hope to alter the younger selves.

Both Sides, Now seems to make the biggest statement on society, with the premise of a conjoined couple (Frank Cervarich and Jennifer Osborn) wanting to be separated. Elizabeth Archer's play, also with direction by Jenna Duncan, reveals that they choose to be surgically conjoined. The sarcastic humor is skillfully handled by Aaren Keith, Hilary Kelly and Devon Ross playing the surgical team who are more concerned with their public image then with the couple themselves. Love, should concern two people, and not, a team of advisors. Be they surgical or otherwise.

T. Adamson's Math is a fable about being true to oneself. It concerns a bear (Devon Ross) learning math for a girl (Farah Lawal Harris). Directed by Nick Martin, Harris, Ross and Seth Rosenke, playing a mathematician and wizard, take turns narrating the story about what happens when we change ourselves for others. Ross is charming as the bear and wins us over as he pines for Harris' flirtatious girl. We've all been in Ross' position and recognize his character's struggle.

With a 10-minute limit on each play, succinctness is a necessity and that was the problem with Rich Espey's Ball Drop. Analemma (Tori Boutin) climbs to the top of a mountain with her soulmate Zenith (Frank Cervarich) to prove the sun will return using a Time Stick (Kimberlee Watson). Boutin is convincing as an astronomer juxtaposed against Cervarich's doubtful Zenith.

The problem is with Espey's premise. While it shows promise, and Bridget Grace Sheaff's direction is an asset, the script could be tightened. For much of the play, it wasn't clear what was occurring or why.

Ball Drop's problematic script doesn't subtract from the larger experience, since another play was just moments away. That's part of the joy in attending a 10-minute play cycle and Science and Soulmates is not one you'll want to miss.

Runtime: 80 minutes with one intermission

Photo: Cultural DC Source Festival

Science and Soulmates plays thru June 27, 2015 at The Source -1835 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC. For tickets, call (866) 811-4111, or purchase them here.



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