A Common Vision, on the other hand, is about UFOs. It follows a young woman out her bedroom window and into the beam of a flying saucer -- maybe -- and from there into hypnosis sessions with a psychiatrist, and from there into a weird encounter with two security guards who saw her levitating in her nightie. Not only is it not quite satirical, the play tries to draw tired parallels between UFOs and religion -- what if abduction is like a spacewalk for the soul! -- and then wonders why the bitter, narrow, skeptical world can't have a little more faith.

The crux of this story, too, is grief. Dolores' lover has left, and her odd levitation at the start of the play is either an abduction attempt by aliens or an illusion spun by her suffering heart. Dolores goes to a psychiatrist named Elliot Turner to get over her crisis. It's Elliot who suggests that her memories of levitation uncovered in hypnosis are signs of an abduction, and he milks her case for a controversial book. Dolores wants to ignore the whole issue, but two bodyguards come forward under unbelievable circumstances -- I think they recognize her through a window of Elliot's office -- to say they saw her levitate. Then she doesn't know what to think. Something about the language of the alien-abduction movement intrigues her, though. "The body is not what it seems," people in the movement like to say; and Dolores adds, "What about the things we can't see? ... Like our soul, do you believe we have one?"

This kind of thing is why skepticism was invented. Anne Darragh plays Dolores, returning to San Francisco after a long stint in New York; but I'm afraid the script won't let her live up to the reputation she established with the Eureka's Angels in America. The dialogue is ill-paced and jerky; the characters talk at cross-purposes, past each other, instead of finding a natural flow. Warren Keith is funny as Elliot, the bumbling psychiatrist, and Sally Dana plays a lively Janine, Dolores' crass girlfriend; but their performances are isolated landmasses of humor.

The simple problem is that the play lacks human interest. The playwright, Neena Beber, moves things forward on the assumption that we care whether Dolores really levitated; but we don't. The question is a rattling vehicle for Beber's hopeful suspicions about the soul, which in the old days -- like Finkelbaum's -- was a vexing question on its own.

-- Michael Scott Moore

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