If this election season gets too real—or unreal—for you, you can always abandon Earth for the planetoid 1965UU. There you’ll discover a timeless monarch of the mind (Paul Lazar) enthroned center stage for all eternity. And over the course of a single intergalactic night in Mac Wellman’s new play, you can watch his thoughts shoot off like hurtling asteroids. Our narrator wryly dubs himself “Poet Laureate of the entire South Temperate Zone”—and in the ensuing 45-minute solo rhapsody, we see why.
1965UU is adapted from Wellman’s short-story collection A Chronicle of the Madness of Small Worlds, which was inspired by actual asteroid names. The sight of Lazar in robe and fez—with a candle at his side—hints at a secret society of interplanetary mind-travelers who conspire against the rational rules found on other spheres. Dark goggles give him (and the mostly silent characters who share his constellation) a Beckettian air. Soon, this enigmatic fellow falls hard for the passing asteroid Rosalind (Kate Marks), “a pretty face with a mind” whose unattainability puts him “in the tremulous grip of real emotion.” Like so many things on 1965UU, Rosalind’s status is “obscure,” inducing in the narrator a “cultural field” of weird feelings and “constitutional mockery.” One thing he does know: Alfonzo (Ed Jewett), a rival for Rosalind’s passions, drives him to distraction.
Lazar tends to alternate between bug-eyed wonder and dry cerebralness, but he also brings a warmth and gentle inflection that ultimately carry the show. Director Steve Mellor—a longtime Wellman collaborator—has intelligently transformed this interior monologue into a direct address to the audience. He also capitalizes on Kyle Chepulis’s effective set: a bare runway pushed against the upstage wall, running from end to end. It’s simple but well thought out, giving a sense of extended space and allowing performers to make long shuffling crosses (befitting of asteroids).
All this adds up to an elegant, if low-key, production—sensibly contained under an hour. Those who know Wellman’s other dramas won’t find many surprises in the wonderfully chewy linguistic concoctions and thematic abstraction here. But Wellman reminds us that the poet’s galaxy stretches as wide as the mind can reach, and we need to rocket there to visit more often.