“Is there any life on Mars?” David Bowie and various scientists have long inquired. Writer-director-performer Jay Scheib doesn’t answer their query, but he does provide a lively look at the attempt to populate the red planet in Untitled Mars (This Title May Change). In collaboration with MIT scientists at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) and members of Budapest’s Pont Mühely theater company, Scheib heads a theatrical mission to that far-off sphere.
The script is utterly jumbled—a fusion of Dr. Robert Zubrin’s scholarly treatise The Case for Mars, Philip K. Dick’s science-fiction Martian Time-Slip, live video conferencing with a tart-tongued aerospace grad student, as well as footage and transcripts from MDRS. The play primarily discusses the potential of a one-way mission to Mars. But it also includes romantic relationships, sinister experiments, and dodgy real-estate deals.
With three video screens, various computer monitors, and three separate stage environments, the plot isn’t the only perplexing element. Often, the eye doesn’t know where to settle. Yet what a pleasure to encounter an artist like Scheib, with so many ideas and so many means of presenting them. And if the narrative rather baffles, the visual images—in all their plenitude—are arresting, as are the attractive actors. In a video clip, Dr. Zubrin insists: “We have to go to Mars simply because it’s there.” If Scheib’s leading, we just might go along for the ride.