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When my brother and I compare memories of our childhood, it's amazing how different they are. We remember totally different events as significant, and if we settle on the same one, our descriptions contrast sharply.
This is one of the problems that Aidan and Rowe cope with in Morag Shepherd's eloquent and provocative "Not One Drop," receiving its world premiere from Plan-B Theatre Company. The intriguing thing about "Not One Drop" is the cartload of questions it prompts you to ask while you're watching it and especially after you leave the theater.
What is the source of your identity, for example? "It's hard to stay myself when I'm around you," Rowe complains to Aidan. "I'm all flayed around the edges." At one point, the two characters exchange clothes, and then they exchange back. "Play me. Act me. Be me," they tell each other late in the play. By now they seem totally confused about which one is which. "I'm not even sure whose voice is speaking," Rowe confesses.
And what is their relationship to each other? Are they sisters? Mother and child? Husband and wife? Relationships are fluid in this game, and they have been playing it over and over for some time. "This exact argument has happened before. It's stuck, and it keeps playing the same point over and over," Aidan comments in frustration. Rowe would like to stop, even though she seems to be more in control than Aidan. But then, what would they do with themselves?
Is what you do more real than what you say? "Just because we act it out doesn't mean it's real," Aidan tells Rowe. What relationship does language have to reality? "Your language doesn't line up with what happened," Aidan criticizes Rowe, who counters, "You're speaking sideways."
And what did happen? Was there an accident? A suicide? Did one of them kill a mother or a husband? "It would be so easy to make an accident on purpose," Rowe admits.
(Perhaps they aren't even human. Aidan could be a spider spinning a web to trap Rowe, and Rowe might be a raindrop falling eternally to earth.)
A talky play like this needs an energy-filled production, and director Jerry Rapier, actors Colleen Baum and Latoya Cameron, set designer Dan Evans, and lighting designer Jesse Portillo collaborate dynamically to make this happen. Like Didi and Gogo in "Waiting for Godot," Aidan and Rowe are stranded in a featureless landscape. Evans' futuristic set consists of a giant white square with a large hole in the center; the square is suspended by guy wires. Rapier constantly moves the actors around the square and into and out of the hole, punctuated by changes in Portillo's continually shifting lights. The hole exudes an ethereal glow. The audience sits around the square.
Baum gives Aidan a no-nonsense, take-charge attitude that contrasts deftly with Cameron's craftier, more manipulative Rowe, who always manages to get the upper hand. They shift emotional gears easily between love and hate, conflict and consolation.
Shepherd's play is an interesting experiment in nonlinear storytelling. She may have overloaded it with issues, and Aidan and Rowe's role playing makes it confusing to follow what's happening at times, but her writing is always clever, pithy and poetic. Thanks also to the David Ross Fetzer Foundation, whose support of theater artists willing to take risks makes productions like this possible.
'Not One Drop'
Spirited performances and dynamic direction energize Morag Shepherd's absurdist, question-filled play.
When • Reviewed on March 23; Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. through April 2.
Where • Studio Theatre at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. Broadway, Salt Lake City.
Running time • 65 minutes (no intermission)
Wait list • A prepaid wait list begins one hour before show time in the Rose Wagner box office. Patrons must be present to be added to the list. Full refunds will be given to those not seated for the performance.