Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Completeness" - Love among the theorems

Review by Judd Hollander

The need for commitment and the phobias which prevent lasting relationships form the basic building blocks in Completeness, Itamar Moses' delightfully engaging scientific comedy at the Playwrights Horizons.

On a university campus, computer science graduate student Elliot (Karl Miller) finds himself attracted to Molly (Aubrey Dollar), herself a graduate student, who specializes in molecular biology. Seeking a reason to keep seeing her, Elliot offers to design a computer algorithm to help Molly with her latest project, which involves yeast. However it turns out Elliot doesn't have to try that hard because Molly is attracted to him almost as much. 

It might be smooth sailing for the two were it not for a couple of rather large sticking points. The first being that Elliot already has a girlfriend, named Lauren (Meredith Forlenza); who it turns out is a "rebound" relationship for Elliot after his previous situation with a former girlfriend went bad. In the meantime, Molly's ex-boyfriend (Brian Avers) is also her adviser at the college and he's not taking the news about being dumped all that well.

It quickly becomes apparent Elliot and Molly are more alike than either originally thought. Both have serious commitment issues, preferring to live in the "right now" rather than thinking about how things might turn out in the long run; or even in the short term.

What makes the entire work so entertaining, along with the very strong appeal of the characters, is the setting in which the playwright has placed the story. Specifically, using a scientific approach to problems as a backdrop to human interaction; while ultimately pointing out that no matter how much data or calculations one may have acquired, unless said information is applied to real-life situations, the material has no value.

At the same time, all of the characters presented (Forlenza and Avers play multiple roles) are quite easy to relate to. From a very uncomfortable emotional meltdown which at least one party would like to avoid, to the continual use of the "I'll call you" excuse when one party tries to end a relationship, these are situations most of the audience can understand and sympathize with. Miller is excellent as Elliot, a guy who's always attracted to his next potential girlfriend, rather than concentrating on what he already has. It also helps that Miller has an easy and powerful chemistry with both Dollar and Forlenza.

Dollar is very good as Molly, an eager young woman trying to rush perhaps too fast into her next romance, or perhaps end an old one; a process she also sometimes applies to her work. Forlenza gets to run the gamut of emotions from happiness to suspicion, rage and tears when it becomes apparent Lauren's time with Elliot may be over. Avers has the least work of substance to do in the play, but gets off some good moments with a desperate (and ultimately comical) telephone call to Molly early on, and also while giving her a dressing down when she may be getting forgetting a few scientific protocols in regards to her research. (Or is it because he's simply angry over their break-up?)

Pam MacKinnon's direction is very strong, keeping the action moving nicely and the characters all believable and interesting. Indeed, the play's two and a half-hour running time moves rather quickly. David Zinn's set is a bit sparse at times, especially when showing various campus locations (such as the computer center), but it ultimately works. Projection & Video Design by Rocco DiSanti works well, especially when operating (often in conjunction) to demonstrate the workings of the different computer programs

Completeness offers an interesting look at the science of love and the algorithms of compatibility; showing that when all is said and done, one must listen to their heart just as much as their intellect for there are no easy answers when it comes to finding the one you're meant to be with.

by Itamar Moses
Directed by Pam MacKinnon

Featuring: Karl Miller (Elliot), Aubrey Dollar (Molly), Meredith Forlenza (Lauren/Katie/Nell), Brian Avers (Don/Clark/Franklin)

Scenic & Costume Design: David Zinn
Lighting Design: Russell H. Champa
Original Music & Sound Design: Bray Poor
Projection & Video Design: Rocco DiSanti
Casting: Alaine Alldaffer, CSA
Press Representative: The Publicity Office
Production Manager: Christopher Bell
Production Stage Manager: Charles M. Turner III

Playwrights Horizons

416 West 42nd Street

Running Time: two hours, thirty minutes
Closed: September 25, 2011

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