Yes, the title is a little off-putting. The playwright acknowledged that during the talkback (and blamed it on her husband.) However, there’s a moment in CANNIBAL GALAXY: A LOVE STORY where the inspiration for the title is quite clear; and it’s actually beautiful. The entire play is modernly elegant. And I’ve never attended a talkback where there were such deep and thoughtful responses to the symbolism of a play.
Of course, I’ve not seen many plays that use symbolism this well.
Charise Greene, the playwright, uses science, well-developed characters, and the unusual setting of a museum to tell the story of five characters impacted by a tragedy. The play is sad, but hopeful; funny and tragic. It’s one of the best directed plays I’ve seen in a long time, too. Tiffany Greene (no blood relation to the playwright, though they are friends) takes us on a literal journey throughout the Gallagher Student Center Theatre in telling this remarkable story. We start as tourists in a museum, standing in the large theatre before finding our seats on the stage. The production is both immersive and distant. Sometimes the actors are within a few feet of us. Other times, we are removed from the action by several yards. But not once did I feel disconnected.
Much of this is a testament to the pacing and the execution of the technology (under Joe Leonard’s tech direction.) But credit must also be given to the engaging performers who inhabit these living, breathing characters. There’s “Vaidm” (an honest Donald Burns), a loving son motivated by guilt and a sense of family. There’s “Chet” (the charismatic Henry Eden), who’s awareness of his need for connection is in conflict with his lack of desire for it. There’s Katie Mitchell’s brilliant “Claire,” who is in the midst of a typical, but powerful identity crisis of her own. There’s the infinitely believable “Eloise” (Hannah Sgambellone), who’s love for all things space help her avoid the harsh realities of real life. And there’s “Jo” (a delightfully conflicted Cassie Delicath), who keeps everything together on the surface while a hot-mess bubbles under the surface. Rounding out the cast is the terrific character actress, Taylor Maas, who inhabits a variety of characters who help accentuate and move the story along. Each actor has moments to shine, but its their cohesiveness as an ensemble that accentuates the emotion found within the script.
This play was workshopped at Xavier two years ago and now they’ve fully realized it; producer Stephen Skiles has an eye for the kinds of pieces that will aid his student in their education. But he also knows how to continually up the ante. Just when I think Xavier can’t surprise me anymore, they produce a “Cannibal Galaxy” and blow me away all over again.
This is a beautifully written, magnificently directed, and proficiently acted new work. Those are my favorites.
CANNIBAL GALAXY: A LOVE STORY will have one more performance on Saturday, September 9th at 7:30pm. It will continue to be workshopped by “Between Two Boroughs” in New York City. More information B2B can be found here. More information on the rest of Xavier University Theatre’s season is here.