John Mighton’s Possible Worlds script is jam-packed with enough to make your head spin. It is a science fiction murder mystery infused with romance and mathematics. It’s intelligent. It’s one of those selfish plays that steals your brain for two hours – and, quite literally, the brain of its protagonist.
This Stratford production of Possible Worlds, directed by Mitchell Cushman, manages to take this thought-provoking material and amp up the sci-fi aspect to create an unimaginable technological dystopia that is virtually impossible to shift your gaze from.
The plot goes as follows: George Barber is dead. But his brain is not. It’s been stolen for scientific research. The entire play follows Barber’s thoughts as they exist in several different worlds and several different versions of himself, while detectives Berkley and Williams search for the murder suspect. But the real, underlying mystery that Mighton has been stumping audiences with for 25 years is a more ethereal one: how much do we actually know about our consciousness? The answer: not much.
The actors swimmingly bring this intricately complex world to life, with Cyrus Lane (playing George) and Krystin Pellerin (playing his lover, Joyce) smoothly alternating between worlds. Their characters remain to be accurate variations of themselves, though they are consistently present in different conscious realms.
Despite the successful portrayal of Mighton’s world, the real bread and butter of this Stratford production is in the design. The the majority of the play's action takes place in a hexagon-shaped wading pool, further creating an uneasy and disorienting aura to George’s world. Nothing is certain. But we do know that George is much more often drenched in water than any of the other characters – and he’s not the swimmer. How’s that for added metaphor?
The projection design by Nick Bottomley accentuates the versatility of this gorgeously unique set design by Anahita Dehbonehie.
He successfully brings the set to life with virtual golf courses, futuristic iPads and much more, including one last haunting image that brings the show to a shuttering close.
If this isn’t enough to peak your interest, this Stratford production has a few tricks up its sleeve – literally. Mind-boggling questions about consciousness are not the only thing that will get you thinking while sitting in this audience. Let’s just say there’s a bit of magic involved. And like the rest of the play, it’s pretty surreal.
Possible Worlds runs at Stratford Festival’s Studio Theatre until Sept. 19. For more information visit www.stratfordfestival.ca.
photo credit: David Hou