A sci-fi tale of colonization, human relationships, and sacrifice, Jayson MacDonald’s Mars tells the parallel stories of Commanders Mallick (Valerie Cotic) and Schreiber (Mark Nocent) as they pilot a crucial mission in the early stages of Martian colonization, and the frame narrative of a colonist and his daughter on a road trip (also played by Nocent and Cotic).

The script for this show is very well structured, each narrative bleeding significance and meaning into the other in a slow buildup of stakes for the characters and audience. The dialogue between the astronauts, in particular, worked very well. I would also like to commend MacDonald for writing several of the better “I’m talking to a voice the audience can’t hear” conversations at the festival this year. Thank you. The story here is compelling, and told in an engaging duo of parallel narratives that switch back and forth at appropriate moments

Despite how complete the story is, the pace of the show is a touch on the slow side, and would benefit from some paring down of the dialogue and banter to move the story along at a more engaging clip. The introductory and concluding “history book” recordings are particularly long, and could be a good place to start cuts.

The technical elements of the show are simple, but do an excellent job of transporting the audience from the deck of the ship to the Martian surface and back. If that weren’t enough, the actors also do an excellent job developing physical and vocal distinctions between their characters, so there is never for a moment a question of which world we’re in. Cotic, especially, does a good job of embodying two distinct humans in a believable manner. Nocent’s father character was a bit too goofy to be real, though it was quite funny, and his portrayal of Commander Schreiber suffered less from this problem.

The blocking is also a bit unimaginative at times, though it is constrained by the pair of realities it is bound to represent: the inside of a spaceship and an automobile. The airlock scene might have been a good opportunity in this regard. Even with Schreiber on stage, we could have still heard only one side of this conversation, but showing us what was going on would bring a little more movement to the stage. I do think the zero-gravity scenes worked well, and Cotic’s car-bound contortions were also a sort of relief from looking at people sitting, but movement on stage would also have helped the audience feel that events were moving at a faster pace.

This show stands in good company among the solid pieces at this festival, and has a shorter way to go than most to start standing out from the crowd.

 

Venue 2 Arts Court Library

new best friend productions

Written by Jayson MacDonald

Performed by Valerie Cotic and Mark Nocent


 

By Wes Babcock

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