The best science fiction is, at base, about humanity. With Blast Radius, Mac Rogers delivers an alternately thrilling, chilling, and emotionally moving piece of theatre. And though the term “piece” of theatre is more than usually accurate due to this being Part II of his epic Honeycomb Trilogy (I reviewed part I, Advance Man, here), you don’t need to have seen the previous play to enjoy this one (though admittedly, it helps). If you like theatre, and especially if you like science fiction, and especially especially if you like both, GO GO GO. You won’t want to be out of the loop for part III.
Spoilers for Part 1 follow (but since it’s now closed, that’s probably fine). The action of Blast Radius takes place 12 years after the events of Advance Man. The hive-mind aliens that encountered the Earth astronauts have landed and drastically changed the world. There’s no electricity, no paper, no medicines, no human invention. Humans are forced to work on farms for the good of all, as a collective, as the aliens do, and are separated in living quarters by sex and occupation. And someone has been setting off explosions. The house of part I is a wreck (great set by Sandy Yalkin), and has become the birthing center- the only place the aliens won’t go, as they revere live birth (making it the ideal place for revolutionary activity). It is run by Shirley (Nancy Sirianni), who does the best midwifery possible without electrical instruments. The teenage siblings from the previous play, Ronnie (Becky Byers) and Abbie (David Rosenblatt), have grown into adults, one leading the covert resistance against the aliens, the other identifying with them perhaps a bit too much. They’ve evolved from a sort of Meg and Charles Wallace Murray from the previous play into a Valentine and Peter Wiggin. Conor (Jason Howard), the Ambassador, who had an alien consciousness implanted into his human body in the previous play and was coming to terms with that, now has command of both that body and a somewhat formal English language. Women, variously pregnant and not, pass through the house over the course of the play. There’s Tash (Amy Lee Pearsall), Clem (Alisha Spielmann) and Fee (Felicia Hudson), and their ne’er-do-well hick boyfriends Dev (Seth Shelden) and Jimmy (Joe Mathers- also fight choreographer). There is also the enigmatic Willa (Cotton Wright), who was injured in an explosion while pregnant, and who has difficulty adjusting. There’s Ronnie’s rebel hunk of a boyfriend Peck (Adam Swiderski), who comes and goes through the place as he pleases. And finally, Abbie has pulled some strings to get his mother Amelia (Kristen Vaughan) to be able to live in her old house as she dies of cancer (which of course is now untreatable).
Director JorDana Williams does incredible work with this great cast, keeping the life-and-death nature of the piece believable and at the forefront. The entire cast is pretty much flawless, but special credit goes to Byers, Howard, Rosenblatt, and Vaughan for continuing their character development from the previous play, acting in the same roles 12 years on. Rogers’ script made me laugh and cry (some girls next to me were sobbing copiously in the penultimate scenes), and ends with a wham of a line that serves as a highly effective cliffhanger for Part III. Like its previous installment the play clocks in at a good 2½ hours, but it seems as though not a line is wasted- even minor details tie into the main themes of the play, those of communication, communion, and cooperation. Even though it’s about aliens, it’s an enormously human play.
as part of the
Blast Radius: Part Two Of The Honeycomb Trilogy