In one of his most famous speeches President John F Kennedy said that the promise of the future would be one of change and challenge, of hope and fear, with “the eyes of the world on space, the Moon and the planets beyond.” As he laid out his vision of what NASA would explore over those coming decades it was implicit that those who went would be highly trained individuals selected for aptitude and achievement.
Then came the end of the world, and in a strange room Tami and Alex awaken, two New Yorkers with very different experiences of life which inform their expectations of what will happen next as they try to recall the fragmentary details of the immediate past which has brought them to this terrifying moment and extrapolate what will happen next.
A plain speaking East Sider accustomed to being in charge of her life, Tami has no framework for a blast of radiation which knocks planes out of the sky; she demands information so she can comprehend, looking for connection with Alex before vocalising her internalised dread almost so it can have no hold over her: “I love this country and it’s coming to an end.”
Having just bought a house in Tribeca with her lazy actor boyfriend, Alex is so privileged she doesn’t even realise it, her memory of a bright light and people screaming almost a half dreamed event she thinks will be dealt with like any other inconvenience, like the games Canada has been playing recently, refusing to let the States harvest their land, drill their waterfalls or buy up Manitoba.
Then into their fugue steps Doctor Campbell, claiming he is from NASA, claiming he can save one of them but only one, claiming there is a planet ten light years away called Super Earth and he can transport his chosen survivor there on his Space Rover which he named after his dog.
The ticking clock of mutual assured destruction or deliverance driving a slick and slippery three hander in a single confined space, the themes and structure echo the low-budget teleplays of paradox and dilemma of The Twilight Zone, the audience in possession of less concrete evidence than the three characters in desperate search of an exit: is this a drill, a test? Who, if anyone, can be trusted?
An avalanche of ideas and abstract leaps of fast moving word association, the power passes between the three players, Larah Bross and Siria Rutstein as Tami and Alex and playwright Elan Zafir as Campbell, as they challenge each other and seek the truth behind the answers offered and fight for what may be a poisoned chalice.
Campbell’s dubious promise is a cascade of possibilities falling differently than history records and sweeping them away into impossible hope; as eloquent and convincing as his words are, is a dream sufficient to live on? Defiantly optimistic in the face of unforgiving reality, the meaning of the play is possibly best left to the individual to decide, but the experience and the discussion after will be worth it.
Super Earth continues until Friday 18th August