You May Not Know What Happened

According to the Electromagnetic Spectrum, the enigmatic “host” of “The 7 Person Chair Pyramid High Wire Act,” the play is supposed to “cover some important basics: the Yeti, Charles Darwin, miracles versus non-miracles, lying, fact-checking, rope-making methods of Siberia, and flying mammals.” But where, exactly, do all these subjects coexist? “Between the speed of sound and the speed of light,” our host tells us. In other words, in Siberia, which also happens to double as a stage at Roxaboxen Exhibitions. Siberia resembles a small carnival booth, hung with ropes twisted from what looks like old pillowcases and menaced on one side by a silhouette of a bear stitched together out of sackcloth.

The show stars author Donna Oblongata and actor Patrick Costello, along with an assortment of puppets. Costello handles the bat puppet, Oblongata the Yeti. Ostensibly, the story tracks Darwin’s expedition to Siberia in search of the mysterious Yeti. There are also several sub-plots involving the bat’s romantic interest in the Electromagnetic Spectrum, the loneliness of the last member of a family of Siberian ropemakers, and the Yeti’s entry into a radio contest promising “an all-expenses paid vacation to somewhere entirely new!” for whomever can invent the next dance craze.

The show is peppered with reflections on miracles, sight and blindness, loss, and love. In fact, the majority of the dialogue is directed at the audience. These speeches are often didactic, but the occasional triteness is relieved by the humor of the script, and the low-pressure weirdness of the play as a whole. “I only have echolocation for you,” the bat puppet begins a draft of a love letter to the Spectrum, before immediately discarding it.

The play’s best moments–the Yeti puppet’s dance, the Ropemaker’s furious embarrassment when Darwin discovers he doesn’t know what his ropes are used for–consistently drew laughter, even some applause, from the audience. The last scene, between the Spectrum and the bat, raised a small symphony of whistles.

The Ropemaker’s concluding speech, however, left us wondering how to react. Even if the most impressive phenomena are “distinctly not-miracles,” he said, “maybe they’re still just as wondrous and worthy of love as if they were.” It’s a little too clear-cut for a man who spends his life braiding ropes in the dark, and especially for the nebulous imaginary zone in which the play supposedly takes place.

I preferred the Ropemaker’s earlier recommendation: “You’ve got to live with the mystery,” he told us, “because even if you witnessed the whole sequence of events, you may not know what mechanisms occurred.”

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