Review by Byrne Harrison
David McGee's Mare Cognitum, the final production in the Theatre of the Small-Eyed Bear's Get S.O.M. festival has several fine moments, but they tend to be mired in a script where everyone talks, but no one really seems to do much of anything. While there are plenty of plays that by nature of what is being discussed hold an audience rapt while little, if anything, occurs on stage, Mare Cognitum is not quite meaty enough to do so.
Mare Cognitum tells the story of Lena (Devon Caraway), Jeff (Kyle Walters), and Thomas (Justin Howard), a trio of young twenty-something roommates living in NYC on the cusp of a military campaign against an unnamed foreign country. Jeff wants to be part of the protest raging outside, but is torn between his desire to make a difference and fear that he won't. Lena attended the protest, but as an observer for one of her classes, not as an active participant. With a critical eye she dissects the rally and comes to the conclusion that there is no focus to the protest. It's ostensibly an anti-war rally, but everyone seems to be pushing his own agenda.
They decide to have a protest of their own, in their apartment. As ineffective as the rally outside, but at least they'll be comfortable.
When Thomas returns from a job interview, it leads to a discussion of the efficacy of protests, war, religion, and a couple of very theatrical moments where Thomas reenacts his interview, which in a really nice turn about, wasn't really an interview at all, and Lena reenacts her earlier class and the classmate whose insights made her feel inferior.
Later, the bombs start falling on the unnamed country, and Jeff and Lena decide enough is enough; it's time to leave the madness behind. They're going to the only place left where they can find peace - the moon. Turning their apartment into a rocketship just takes a little imagination, and even getting the doubting Thomas to join in doesn't take too much work. A few minutes of shaking as the apartment rises through the atmosphere, and then they're on the moon. Away from the war. Away from incipient adulthood. Nothing but a thin but breathable atmosphere, lower gravity, and a beautiful earthrise on the horizon.
All good things must come to an end, however, and the roomies find themselves thrown back to reality, the moon a distant dream once again.
Mare Cognitum's strength lies in it's most theatrical moments. As the play untethers itself from reality, it brings the audience along on an adventure. Did the roommates really go to the moon? Was it all a dream or delusion? Ultimately it doesn't really matter; it's the journey, not the destination that's important.
Acting is generally good in the play, particularly Walters as the beaten-down Jeff. Jesse Edward Rosbrow's direction is strong, though ultimately not enough to overcome the limitations of the script. Lighting and sound play a large part in Mare Cognitum, and Wilburn Bonnell and Jared M. Silver, respectively, are to be commended for their work.
Written by David McGee
Directed by Jesse Edward Rosbrow
Stage Manager: Emily Gasser
Set Designer: Elisah Schaefer
Lighting Designer: Wilburn Bonnell
Costume Designer: Jennifer Raskopf
Sound Designer: Jared M. Silver
Props Designer: Jesse Louis Hathaway
Associate Lighting Designer: Victoria Miller
Sound Board Operator: Victoria Watson
Press Representative: Emily Owens PR
Industry Representative: Scotti Rhodes
Graphic Designer: Duncan Pflaster
Website Designer: Ashley Avis
Arts in Action Series Producer: Laura Moss
Associate Producers: Emily Simoness, Margie Kment
Production Manager: Norah Turnham
Producers: Alexander Koo, Arienne Pelletier, Duncan Pflaster, Michael Roderick, Jesse Edward Rosbrow
Featuring: Devon Caraway (Lena), Justin Howard (Thomas), Kyle Walters (Jeff)
The Workshop Theatre
312 W. 36th Street
Closed May 30th