Convergence-Contiuum’s ‘After the Blast’ takes its own sweet time
If one were to believe the premise of Zoe Kazan’s “After the Blast”, now on stage at Convergence-Continuum the future of mankind is bleak indeed. Decades following a combined ecological disaster and nuclear holocaust, the handpicked survivors of scientists and specialists survive in underground bunkers scattered around the world.
Most everyone has been outfitted with “brain chips” which allow them to tune in to “sim”, a form of virtual reality that allows them to experience the pleasures of nature and a wide variety of delicious food (masking their gray lives and bland nutrient offerings). They also have ready access to caffeine to perk up with and THC vaping to take the edge off of life.
Oliver (Patrick Warner) and Anna (Carolyn Demanelis) live in a small apartment that is part of a worldwide complex. Oliver is a renowned scientist working on trying to reverse the current above ground conditions. Anna used to be a journalist but got weary writing articles about food and water conservation. Over the years she has gotten more and more depressed. Added to her depression is their desire to have a child (which is strictly regulated). Anna, for whatever reason also refuses to use the sim. Their friends Patrick (Mike Frye) and Carrie (Katherine Nash) are expecting which adds further stress. Because of her mental state she has been denied fertility four times due to her suicide tendencies. They have one more attempt to convince the powers to be that they are stable enough to have and raise a child.
Out of desperation, Oliver brings home a robot telling Anna it is part of a program in which she is to train “it” so that it will eventually be of service to blind children. At first hesitant, Anna eventually warms up to “Arthur” (Alex Strzemilowski) and the two develop a “friendship” of sorts that include philosophical discussions “Why were you made if you don’t have a purpose?” as well as singing and dancing “Islands in the Stream.” They also play a version of “fetch” using a metal ball and powerful magnets on Arthur’s “hands.” Anna forms a strong attachment to Arthur but alas he cannot reciprocate because he has no emotions. Even so, with Arthur’s help, Anna is able to regain her emotional equilibrium enough to face her last fertility hearing.
While an interesting and quite novel concept, the show is hamstrung by its length. Clocking in at a little over two hours (with a ten minute intermission) there is scant story to fill that much time and parts could have easily been edited out. Another problem is that there is too much screaming for a theater the size of the Liminis Theatre. Carolyn Demanelis as Anna needs to tone down her volume during the argument scenes.
Otherwise it is not a bad evening of theater. The set by Cory Molner is blandly appropriate with its well worn grayness. Costuming by Amanda Rowe-Van Allen is bland chic as well. What color there is comes from video projections by Neil Sudhakaran on the apartment’s huge screen as past scenes of natures wonders glide by. Robert Wachala’s Lighting Design is airy and quite sufficient. The actors do as good a job as they can with the bloated over written script. There were some problems with the tech aspects but everyone soldered on in spite of. Of note is the collection of atomic themed songs played by the sim. The show is directed by Eva Nel Brettrager.
It is an intriguing story with a couple of interesting plot twists at the end, unfortunately the show takes the long road to get there. Fans of Con-Con will enjoy the excellent acting, well designed set and special effects and will probably not mind the long sit. Worth seeing, especially if you are a sci-fi fan.
The Convergence-Contiuum production of “After the Blast” is on stage in the Liminis Theatre, 2438 Scranton Road, Cleveland, Ohio (in historic Tremont) through April 22, 2023. For more information and tickets go to https://www.convergence-continuum.org/ or call (216) 687-0074.