Jessica Messenger’s new play with song is a response to the question “What if?” And not just any old “What if?” but the “What if” that presupposes that there are alternate universes and that we could somehow travel between them and see what our lives could have been like if we had made different choices. It’s not nearly a groundbreaking concept, but it’s one we always love exploring through literature, film, and of course theatre. Who wouldn’t enjoy taking a little peek into their other lives?
Naomi (Erin J. Hutchinson) is turning 30 and she’s at a crossroads, so suddenly being catapulted into a couple of alternate universes should help, right? Well, not exactly. By seeing her life on two other trajectories, she finds out that the grass might not be greener anywhere else. She sees her life as a sexually fluid jazz singer and encounters problems with her best friend, Tegan (Esther Longhurst), who is now her lover. And she sees her life as a wife to ex-boyfriend (now husband) Robbie (Nick Maclaine), and simply can’t adjust to being a new mother or the fact that her real-life boyfriend Jonathan (Josh Walker) is now a midwife dating her best friend.
Naomi never really gets ample time to settle into these alternate lives, and is pretty much immediately and continually confused about the whole thing, so it’s not really clear whether she’s reacting as her original self or as her alternate selves. I would have thought that once she understood that this was not “her beautiful house,” in the words of David Byrne, that she would then become a kind of omniscient observer while watching her lives unfold. But she becomes emotionally entrenched and mixes up her real-life relationships with her alternate-life relationships, accusing them of things as if they too were aware of what she was experiencing.
As confusing as it all is for Naomi, and by extension for us as observers, there are some funny bits born from that confusion. Certainly, the relationship between the two female characters is the centrepiece of this play, as the two men function mainly as placeholders. Interestingly, the first 10 minutes of the show are delivered by Hutchinson and Longhurst standing side-by-side, stock still, acting only from the neck up. It forces us to realise how much rides on a facial expression and a vocal inflection.
Of course, the infusion of jazzy covers (No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” to name one) elucidate certain emotional points and punctuate the action. The ensemble harmonise and scat together successfully with Suzanne Kosowitz accompanying on double bass. Hutchinson as the central figure to this play has buckets of energy and makes the entire room her own.
There’s a lot of ground to cover here, and Messenger does manage to somehow keep it all pinned down and wraps it up in a reasonably neat little package. And perhaps the strongest take-away from it all is to think twice before you speed up to get through a yellow light, whether it be an actual or a figurative one.
Ellandar Productions presents
Multiverse Theory in D
by Jessica Messenger
Director Jessica Messenger
Venue: The Blue Room Theatre | 53 James Street Northbridge WA
Dates: 17 November – 5 December 2015
Tickets: $15 – $25