INFINITY by Hannah Moscovitch (Tarragon Theatre/Volcano Theatre). Tarragon Theatre Extraspace, 30 Bridgman, to May 3. $29-$55. See Listings. Rating: NNNN
You’d think a play about a physicist obsessed with his work would be a cerebral exercise, but the strength of Hannah Moscovitch’s Infinity is its emotional core.
The play begins with a young woman (Haley McGee) talking about her social life at college but quickly segues to violinist/composer Carmen (Amy Rutherford) just as she’s about to meet PhD candidate in physics Elliot (Paul Braunstein). Their conversation about string theory and time turns them on and they begin a relationship.
The rest of the play tracks their marriage, the birth of their child, Elliot’s preoccupation with his work – what could be a groundbreaking analysis of time – at the expense of his family. Carmen’s consigned to housewifery and has difficulty believing she still matters to a husband who tends to embrace her for about three seconds before he starts talking about time as illusion.
Turns out the young woman in the play’s opening is their daughter, Sarah-Jean, who has her personal issues but feels profoundly connected to both her parents.
There’s a ton of heady stuff here – Lee Smolin is Moscovitch’s consulting physicist – but the play makes you feel as much as it makes you think.
That’s because the characters are complex – especially Elliot, a man who has strong feelings but doesn’t know what to do with them. And director Ross Manson gets exceptional performances out of his actors. Rutherford carries the sadness of a woman with abandonment issues whose self-esteem continues to disintegrate. As the physicist with poor priorities, Braunstein expertly conveys a man captivated by the rigours of his academic discipline and baffled by the emotional demands of marriage. McGee plays everything from an eight-year-old to a 20-something student with stormy passion.
Scenes are punctuated with Njo Kong Kie’s gorgeous music, superbly played by violinist Andréa Tyniec. It’s an ingenious reminder of something not addressed strongly enough in the text: the fact that Carmen’s career has been put on hold.
There’s a major misstep in the last scene, which states the obvious when we already got the message.
But Infinity is still brilliant.