Luminescence Dating By Carey Perloff
Ensemble Studio Theatre
549 West 52nd Street
New Yorkers all too familiar with blind dating, speed dating, and J-dating can now experience Luminescence Dating. Less a courtship ritual than technical process (though is there really such a difference?), luminescence dating determines the age of clay objects by discovering when they were last heated. In Carey Perloff's romance drama, the centerpiece of this year's First Light Festival of plays about science, American archaeology professor Angela (Betsy Aidem) makes use of the procedure to uncover a missing statue of Aphrodite and enflame a crusty British lecturer. Perloff, best known as the artistic director of San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater, puts her B.A. in classics to work. Sappho, Catullus, and a few semesters' worth of Ancient Civ ornament the stage action, embellishing the narratives of lost icons and lost loves. One would think that Perloff's archaeological mysteries and entangled amours would provide sufficient plot for a two-hour drama, but the action lags. The dialogue often sounds programmatic rather than natural, and the narrative more contrived than surprisinga phenomenon that afflicts a good many First Light plays. Though Perloff creates some generous roles, and the actors, under the direction of Will Pomerantz, attempt to enliven them, this drama of the scientific method proves all too methodical.