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Theater review: 'On Emotion' at Son of Semele Theater

December 9, 2010 | 12:30 pm

IMG_0794"On Emotion," a playwriting collaboration between theater artist Mick Gordon and neuropsychologist Paul Broks, tracks the collision of four very different personalities. Three family members and one outsider spin about in the same orbit, their feelings exerting fierce gravitational pull as they slam into one other and realign their ever-shifting constellation. 

The play, a British import receiving its U.S. premiere courtesy of the Son of Semele Ensemble, is part of a series of "theater essays" Gordon has undertaken on such boundless subjects as love, death, ego and religion. There's a cerebral tone that the authors try to jazz up by configuring the scenes into a disjointed network. What it all adds up to is anyone's guess, though the suggestion is that emotions are interlocking, forming a puzzle that individuals can't be expected to solve on their own. 

"Are we the puppet master or the puppet itself" is the work's leading question. It's a fitting one, as Anna (Melina Bielefelt) is a puppet maker who's recovering from a suicide attempt.

Lucy (Sami Klein), Anna's self-involved actor friend, has recommended that she see her father, Stephen (Michael Nehring), a behavioral therapist working on a treatise on human emotions. He develops ardent feelings for Anna, which he tries to keep hidden. But his autistic, "Star Trek"-obsessed son, Mark (Alex Smith), inadvertently lets the secret out, with dire consequences for all.

The production, directed by Matthew McCray, comes strangely shrouded in a depressive hush. Multimedia touches ease the dour monotony, and the puppet design by Moira Lael McDonald is inspired, but the profundity is a tease. This disquisition into our irrational side is like a shadow chasing itself.

-- Charles McNulty
twitter.com/charlesmcnulty

“On Emotion,” Son of Semele Theater, 3301 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Ends Dec. 12. $17-$26. www.sonofsemele.org Running time:1 hour, 30 minutes.

Photo: Melinda Bielefelt, Alex Smith and Sami Klein. Credit: Matthew McCray


 
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