Not five minutes into the new “sci-fi” play Sans Everything, a very lanky, very nude and very bearded man rolls onstage after being mysteriously birthed via a very industrial looking curtain. Wordlessly, he takes his first staggering breath and starts to acclimate himself to this strange new world where the only sound is the repetitive hum of machinery. He doesn’t notice us, nor does he notice the woman standing motionless nearby who is watching the proceedings intently.
Now this might be the moment you ask yourself – “Wait, what the &*%@ is going on here?” But, embrace the confusion, my friends, as all will be explained (to varying degrees) by the end of the evening.
Sans Everything is the delightfully surprising result of over two years of theatrical labor from Providence’s Strange Attractor Theatre and Philadelphia’s Lightning Rod Special. No single playwright credit is listed because the play has been built collaboratively from the ground up by the two groups. Their work is fashioned from a single theme into an ensemble-led, ensemble-designed and fully staged evening of lively storytelling.
And oh, that story – soon we see our bearded “newborn” mastering the art of walking and talking. He and his companion soon discover that they are within the walls of a mother ship and – surprise! – not very alone at all. There is in fact a wide variety of fellow inhabitants who contentedly follow the ship’s routine of sleep, strict exercise, meals, research and botany (for one never knows if one shall arrive as a plant or a human, so all must be tended to). While they have all the shared knowledge of the human condition at their fingertips, they are experiencing everything for themselves for the first time. The group’s sense of discovery and wonderment feels truly genuine – and is also very, very funny.
The arrival of the new duo soon puts into motion changes among the group, who are already displaying some sense of friction with their growing awareness. They split into two factions, one fixated on exploring their physical being and the other enthusiastically aflame with the passion to be found in language – more specifically Shakespeare’s As You Like It. The group’s maturation into two distinct camps – think Lord of the Flies vs. hippie Shakespeare in the Park – eventually comes to a head when the players stage a violent scene for their brethren. Here is the intersection of life – where beauty meets strength and language meets action. It is a moment that reveals our true humanity, whether we would like to view it or not.
Thanks to their unique process of creating their plays, there is an intimacy and specificity to Sans Everything that often allows the actors to not speak for long periods of time, and it is here where their personal connection to the material truly shines. It is like that family story that has been told again and again at gatherings. It has been embellished over the years until it grows into a finely honed yarn that everyone knows the details to and even still, everyone delights in the telling. And of course, nailing the punchline.
Sans Everything’s talented ensemble of actors/creators is made up of Roblin Gray Davis, Jed Hancock-Brainerd, Katie Gould, Jennifer Kidwell, Mason Rosenthal, Scott Sheppard, Clara Weishahn, Alice Yorke and Rebecca Noon.
Sans Everything presented by Strange Attractor and Lightning Rod Special will be in Boston for a limited run March 10 at 7pm, March 11 and 12 at 8pm at the Charlestown Working Theater, 442 Bunker Hill St, Charlestown. Tickets are $20, online at charlestownworkingtheater.org.
The group is also offering a one-day workshop March 12t from 1-4pm on their innovative physical performance style. For $50 you can attend both the performance and the workshop or the class alone for $45. More info at 617-242-3285. Visit Strange Attractor Theatre at www.strangeattractor.org and Lightning Rod Special online at www.lightningrodspecial.com.