Fifty years ago, in the fraught 1960s, which was, for some of us, the best and the worst of times, when our political heroes were gunned down, when, thanks to the “pill,” love was free and easy, when the “Doors of Perception” were blasted open by psychedelia in the form of pot, LSD, and psilocybin, when television was available on five channels and music came on vinyl discs that were spun on turntables, there was a comedy troupe called “The Firesign Theatre.” College students played their hilarious, culturally smart records over and over again until we had their tropes memorized. As I watched Joshua Fardon’s play, 1=0, now running at Theatre of NOTE, a tiny snippet from one of the records popped into mind. At some kind of assembly, a seemingly distant voice yelled out, “What is reality?” What reality is or is not is the confounding territory of Mr. Fardon’s play.
The action begins in high gear in the office of Molly (Andrea Ruth), a quantum physics teacher, where a complex, unfinished equation that ends in 1=0 is chalked on a blackboard. The aptly named Celeste (Michelle Hilyard), the woman who wrote the equation, suffers from adult onset scoliosis, a disease that has her moving slowly and painfully. The two women together are under a deadline for the completion and submission of the equation, which deals with the notion that a quantum particle can exist in two locations at once. This idea informs the rest of the play in unusual, dramatic ways. But that seems beside the point. Molly’s concern for Celeste is possessive in a way that hints at a relationship of unrequited love. Celeste seems not to care about the equation or the submission. What concerns Molly is Celeste’s online romance with a Syrian refugee named Russell (Will McFadden), an odd name for a Middle-Easterner. Celeste is determined to leave the work at hand and to meet with Russell, hoping, as a crippled, divorced woman in her late forties, to find love.
As the play progresses, the audience discovers that Russell is a very tall man who looks and sounds like a person from the American Mid-West. Even more oddly, he claims to be a makeup artist. He has plausible explanations for all of this. In an intense, vivid, convincing monologue, Mr. McFadden enthralled this audience member with the story of his character’s Syrian roots and the violent events that brought him to the United States. There is reason to doubt his story. In line outside a movie theatre, Celeste and Russell find themselves ahead of Scott and Heaven (broadly played by Sigi Gradwohl and Kerr Lordygan), a loud, aggressive couple who stand in shocking contrast to Russell and Celeste. Scott claims to recognize Russell from high school. Violence ensues. After this theatrical climax, an extended dénouement reveals much, and some of the mystery of the equation, 1=0, becomes less obscure.
James R. Carey directs, with Alysha Brady as Assistant Director. Set & Props Designer is Bill Voorhees; Costume Designer is Linda Muggeridge; Lighting & Sound Designer is Matt Richter; and the Fight Choreographer is Marc Antonio Pritchett. The production is stage managed by Aaron Saldaña and Kelby Jo McClellan.
1=0, produced for Theatre of NOTE by Bill Voorhees, Vanessa Donley, Julia Lloyd George and Andrea Ruth, runs through March 30 at Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd. (just north of Sunset) in Hollywood.