Completeness

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    September 1, 2011

    Review by Tulis McCall
    Itmar Moses writes plays that seem to say, “Look. It is a fact that we humans are using about 1/10th of our brain. This is a play that will help you to use a bit more.” In this excellent production Moses has chosen molecular biology and computer science as the backdrop for a love story that is tricky. The love story is as tricky as the back story which is a world of experiment and always uncertainty.

    Molly (Aubrey Dollar) is a grad student in Biochemistry who is studying proteins using yeast as a constant. These are proteins that have just appeared on the marquis and the only way to see what they do is to test them. All the bits of our bodies and our environment do what they do without any person bossing them around, and Molly wants to know why. …”so many of the things our bodies do are still so mysterious, because they’re less functions than they are just emergent properties of a dynamic multi-layered mess. We grow and change and get sick and recover and age and die and by and large from our perspective these things just happen. Our bodies just know. So it’ll be a long long time from now, if ever, before we can know with our brains all the things our bodies already know.”

    Elliott (Karl Miller) is working on the TSP – Traveling Salesman Problem – how to create an algorithm that will figure out the shortest route between cities when three cities will give you 6 possibilities, but 11 cities will give you 40 millions possibilities. “It’s the most important unsolved problem in all of Computer Science. …it also turns out to be analogous to hundreds of other problems, in game theory, language theory, apparently in biology, to basically any problem of satisfiability…. What this means is, if you solve any one of them? You’ll actually have solved them all. And this is known as the Theory of NP-Completeness. And it’s what I’m working on. Pretty much all the time.”

    This is really how these characters talk. And they have a lot to say. This is the chattiest couple you will come across for a long time. They have so much stuff locked up in their noggins that is comes spilling out in a torrent whenever they exhale. It doesn’t take too long to start connecting the dots – everything these two say about their work is a metaphor for their relationship. Moses gets a bit heavy-handed with this analogy and it soon becomes clear that his best work is when the business of science is dropped and the relationship is what is on the table. Both are experiments in every way.

    Moses penchant for over writing is out shined by the production itself. He is fortunate. Karl Miller is more than good or engaging. He knows that when the other person is speaking he has to do more than wait for his cue. He has to listen actively. You can practically feel him listening. As Molly – kudos to Moses for creating such a strong woman - Dollar has the enviable task of lines that are funny and jaw dropping. She has a soft heart, but she never backs down from a challenge. The cast is made whole with the addition of Brian Avers and Meredith Florenza who play several characters that serve to give shape and direction to this story. And everyone is under the masterful direction of Pam MacKinnon who has imbued the entire production with spark and an element of unpredictability.

    You can’t ask for a better team – perhaps a few less words (to paraphrase the King to Mozart), but this is a terrific production.

    (Tulis McCall)

    What the popular press said...

    "I couldn’t help reflecting that neither ... Elliot nor Molly — was sufficiently interesting to warrant deep engagement."
    Charles Isherwood for New York Times

    "If Moses (Playwright), ..., overstates it and gets a bit too tricky (he does), he's got such a pitch-perfect ear for conversation and scientific gobbledygook, it's still an engaging ride."
    Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

    "Relies too much on lengthy, jargon-laden speeches. The likable actors should get combat pay for memorizing reams of this stuff, but so should we for listening to them.
    Elizabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "You don't need an advanced degree to fully enjoy this witty, endearing love story involving two grad students.
    David Sheward for Back Stage

    "A light comedy of no great consequence, its craft and inventiveness are notable. A real charmer."
    Michael Sommers for Newsroom New Jersey

    "A romantic comedy that doesn't turn the stomach or insult the intelligence."
    Marilyn Stasio for Variety

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Back Stage - Newsroom New Jersey - Variety