Chain Reactions and Tick-a-Licious

Two plays: one exploring the theme of reality and transformation, the other featuring characters dressed kind of like Teletubbies. Guess which is better.

Chain Reactions is a Fringe Festival hit from 2000 that local playwright Trevor Allen has reworked a little for a new production. It's a fugue of voices -- Einstein's, a physics professor's, a poet's -- on the theme of reality and transformation, without much story or plot. Allen wants to see how far a musical arrangement of words and voices can carry the art of theater toward a vision of the universe as a mutable, interconnected morass -- the sort of religious vision modern physicists have, or almost have. His last show, 49 Miles, experimented in the same direction, but Chain Reactions is more successful, because here the abstract bits crystallize into meaningful speeches by the end. (I still think Allen has to write strong characters before the technique goes anywhere, though.) In any case, the play is better than Tick-a-Licious, Shaun Church's embarrassing one-act about three creatures who chirp about love and death while wearing soft, brightly colored costumes, like Teletubbies who've read too much Beckett. The worst part comes when one creature rips the front of her costume away to show a digital clock face counting down the last 45 minutes of her life, and you realize that you're doomed to age that long before the show is done.

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