LIFE X 3
Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
The award winning Off Broadway West Theatre Company is currently presenting LIFE X 3, an intelligent comedy for audiences who enjoy simultaneous thinking and laughing.
Cecilia Palmtag directs this non-linear, domestic comedy crafted with thought provoking creativity by Yasmina Reza (also known for her acclaimed: CONVERSATIONS AFTER A BURIAL, ART and GOD OF CARNAGE).
LIFE X 3 explores the theme that every decision, even the seemingly trivial, is pivotal, changing the course of events downstream in time and fanning out, like a plume of smoke, in its sphere of influence.
Like RUN, LOLA, RUN, this play resets itself, three times, to demonstrate how seemingly insignificant factors exert major influences on life’s meandering, cause and effect, trajectory.
Cerebral audiences may sense that LIFE X 3 is a staged exploration of both Chaos Theory—as postulated by Henri Poincare in 1890—and the Butterfly Effect as encapsulated in a short story by Ray Bradberry in 1952, and couched in scientific language by Edward Lorenz in 1961.
With the introduction of super-computers, this trope has gained wider recognition in the scientific community; its most famous application was in prognosticating the erratic track of Hurricane Sandy.
According to this scientific theory, the down draft stirred by a fluttering butterfly wing can change the course of meteorological events and ultimately result in a level 5 hurricane, like the one that caused New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie to reach across the aisle to accept federal hurricane relief funds from a Democratic President (momentarily opening his opportunity in the next presidential election).
Politics aside, Sonia’s decision to wear a bathrobe to entertain guests, versus donning appropriate evening apparel, sets her husband Henry’s career on a whole new trajectory.
Sylvia Burboeck—wonderfully cast as Sonia—uses subtlety and nuance in retracing her steps in the three versions of the soiree; to her credit, Ms. Burboeck is able to accomplish the re-enactments with only small variations in detail yet side-step a tedious sense of repetition or haunting deja vu.
Aren Haun—marvelously cast as Henry—likewise uses high energy and creative expression, to not only keep the play out of the slough of redundancy, but to introduce new elements of comedy during each permutation and to clearly differentiate the branches.
Sylvia Kratins—as the ever petulant Inez—elects to attend the party in a pair of runny panty hose; the enormity of her petty decision casts an irritant pale over all that follows.
Peter Fitzsimmons—who plays the pivotal role as Hubert—effuses the energy of a power broker: seemingly a nice guy but with a full set of carnivorous choppers behind his glib condescending smile.
Combined, Cecilia Palmtag and Yasmina Reza, set forth a beautifully articulated demonstration on how initial conditions, in which a “small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later states.”
Reza, being French, also borrows from Sarte’s NO EXIT in her depiction of the group dynamic; quickly shifting alliances and sudden betrayals add spontaneity to this multifaceted jewel.
LIFE X 3 is sophisticated theatre topped with two scoops of intelligent comedy.
For tickets go to www.offbroadwaywest.org or call 800-838-3006.