Kaleidoscope begins with an accident: a spaceship hauling lumber across the cosmos explodes, sending a handful of its passengers hurtling through space. They’re a small brace of survivors – it’s suggested there were others who died in the crash, but only these six escape – and they are connected only by radios that are soon to run out of power. All that’s left of their pre-crash lives are the voices of their fellow shipmates, and each is hurtling outward into his own oblivion.
The play is an adaptation of two radio plays by Bradbury also called Kaleidoscope, done by the show’s director, Nathan Gabriel. The adaptation is smart – just the beginning of a slew of smart choices made by Gabriel across the production – and it cleverly honors both the piece’s radio beginnings and its new stagebound life. This isn’t an easy feat, but Gabriel has found a way to make the play’s aural landscape as evocative as its visual one.
The ensemble of actors do fine work across the board. Their relationships with each other, and ultimately their relationship with their inevitable ends, are clear and fleshed out. The stakes are high, and no one (thankfully!) reaches or showboats with their limited time on stage. Two performances are particularly effective. Vince Barras, as Hollis, has the show’s biggest role and serves as its de fact conscience. He’s genuine, warm and affecting, particularly in his final moments.
The show’s standout performance was Chris Matochi’s as Stimson, the one survivor who’s not handling his end with grace. The part is small – although he lasts longer than some of his companions, Stimson isn’t given a lot of text – but Matochi fills it with a rich energy that’s deeply affecting. His death is the most painful to watch, and his departure was the only one I felt in my gut.
What’s impressive about Kaleidscope is its restraint. Gabriel wisely chooses to hold back from unnecessary theatrics and bold, overstated gestures. His touches are small, quiet and powerful – small lights going out on each of the actor’s costumes signaling their demise was my favorite – and his artistic team followed suit. Brady McKellar’s costumes were simple yet evocative. Travis Johnston’s lighting design was spot-on. And the show’s music (Max Richter), sound design (Jack Klotz and Gabriel) and video design (Lisa Marie Patzer) were impressive and understated, honoring the show’s 1950s science fiction sensibility without resorting to camp.
The whole enterprise is impressive, and it’s encouraging to know that folks like Gabriel and McKellar, both newish faces on the UL Performing Arts faculty, are helping to steer local theatre into its future.
Kaleidscope invites us not only to consider the vastness of the universe but also the uncharted distances between people. In that distance, the play seems to say, our inability to connect honestly and completely with the people around us keeps us untethered, alone. And the play seems to say that it’s not our joys but our regrets that keep us company once all the lights are out. And once the silence is descending, with whatever courage we have left, we should send those regrets out into space, as a fevered cry in the dark.
Kaleidoscope continues its run at Theatre 810 through the remainder of Festival International, beginning at 7 pm every night and will also run May 3-6, again at 7 pm.