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if nobody does remarkable things: An Issue Play with Typical Flaws

- By Greggory Moore, Curtain Call Columnist

In the not-too-distant future, when NYC cockroache­s have adapted to climate change by taking flight and Saharan dust regularly coats distant beaches in a patina of Mars orange, a famous environmen­tal activist lives a quiet seaside life with her husband and teenage daughter years after fallout from a New York Times hit piece forced her to flee the public eye. But her former lover, a photograph­er who shot an iconic image for said hit piece, has journeyed across the Atlantic in hopes of bringing her back into the game, because this is a time for heroes.

This is the premise of Emma Gibson’s if nobody does remarkable things, the product of Panndora Production­s’ annual new works festival. But despite plenty of good intentions and earnestnes­s, … remarkable things feels like a workshop production, still in need of tinkering in order to provide adequate shelter for its ideas.

Ironically, for someone who went out of her way to write an “issue play” — and …remarkable things is self-consciousl­y that, complete with a monologue that’s just short of “Hey, audience, we need to act now!” — Gibson doesn’t seem to have done much research. For starters, according to NASA, an organizati­on explicitly and prominentl­y referenced by …remarkable things, “Africa’s annual dust plumes [are predicted to] actually shrink to a 20,000-year minimum over the next century as a result of climate change and ocean warming.” Add in the fact that flying cockroache­s have long been at home in NYC — not to mention that the New York Post (for example) is a far more likely venue for a climate hit piece than the Times — and Gibson’s imagined future has a credibilit­y problem.

But what matters most is the people. If we buy the human drama of … remarkable things , perhaps we can overlook the obvious flaws in Gibson’s worldbuild­ing?

Unfortunat­ely, there are credibilit­y problems here, too. While Gibson makes much of “the point of no return,” the moment you take action that will irrevocabl­y change your life, more often than not her characters’ actions feel every bit as unconvinci­ng as the world she built for them. Would Joel the photog (Erik Pfeifer) really have left live-in girlfriend Anna the activist (Karen Wray) on the eve of the article’s publicatio­n because he found out his pics were to be used for a hit piece? Do we really believe that he had so little faith in the love of his life — and so little regard for her feelings — that he bailed without a word, without so much as going back to the apartment for even his clothes or the cameras that were his livelihood, rather than simply saying,

“Honey, I just saw the piece — my editor screwed us both”? We really don’t. And this isn’t the only example of characters acting sans credible motivation.

Because the writing doesn’t ring true, it’s hard to know what the cast might have done with convincing characters. As it is, the energy between Wray and Pfeifer never quite generates emotional heat. As Anna’s husband, Pete Taylor has some nice moments, including the lion’s share of the play’s humor. As a grownup version of Anna’s daughter, whom we encounter as a sort of narrator, Mariana Arôxa has some nice moments of her own, but she’s hamstrung by the fact that Gibson has not adequately fleshed out the backstory behind this breaking of the fourth wall.

With a few simple, subtle choices (orange-tinged lights, strategica­lly-placed mirror), scene/lighting designer Eliot Ohlemeyer has effectivel­y created a physical space with an apt mood. A little more attention to detail (e.g., when the script calls for lighting candles, light candles — otherwise, tailor the dialog to fit the action), and the mise en scène would be spot on.

if nobody does remarkable things is every bit the “issue play” its title suggests, complete with a monologue that’s just shy of, “Hey, audience, we need to act now!” And as is so often the case with such work, its creator seems to leave the topic to do the heavy lifting all by itself, rather than delivering a piece of art that can carry its own weight.

if nobody does remarkable things at Panndora Production­s

Times: Friday through Saturday 8 p.m.; Sunday May 8 2 p.m. and Thursday, May 12 2 p.m.

The show runs through May 14

Cost: $18–$30 Details: panndorapr­oductions.com

Venue: The Garage Theatre, 251 E. 7th St., Long Beach

 ?? Photos courtesy of Panndora Production­s Long Beach ?? Upper right: Mariana Arôxa as older June in if nobody does remarkable things.
Photos courtesy of Panndora Production­s Long Beach Upper right: Mariana Arôxa as older June in if nobody does remarkable things.
 ?? ?? Left: Pete Taylor as Paul and Erik Pfeifer as Joel in if nobody does remarkable things.
Left: Pete Taylor as Paul and Erik Pfeifer as Joel in if nobody does remarkable things.

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