Big Science investigates the human condition | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Big Science investigates the human condition 

Hot Kitchen Collective explores both inner and outer space.

click to enlarge bigscience_900.jpg

Sihan Wang

The meandering series of bits, skits, monologues, and pantomimes that makes up Hot Kitchen Collective's exploration of outer and inner space doesn't necessarily have a narrative, but it has no shortage of things to say. Nine performers take turns riffing on science facts and fiction while wearing very homemade, provisional astronaut garb. I spent most of its 75-minute running time with a smile on my face.

References to shopworn pop culture signifiers like the musical theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey (used repeatedly as an interstitial, to varying comic effect) are counterbalanced by moments of poetic, often wordless wonder. A silent procession of astronauts holding glass beakers filled with blue liquid lit from within by little LED lights is truly magical. But a minute later, a girl is spouting made-up facts about narwhals.

Big Science very much takes a young person's perspective on the state of the world in the ease with which it jumps from the silly to the serious, but taking science as a jumping-off point to explore the human condition is a gutsy and ambitious move. The vacuum-sealed snacks suspended at various points around the theater lend the piece an eerie, dystopian feel. In one memorable bit, a sweaty girl caps an energetic dance routine by reaching up and grabbing a bagged can of Pepsi. She pops the top through the plastic, tips it toward her mouth, then watches along with the rest of us as the bubbling brown fluid fills the bag but never reaches her mouth. It's one odd but compelling sight in a show overflowing with them.   v

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