Celestial Mechanics--Or the Questionable Attraction of Entities | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Celestial Mechanics--Or the Questionable Attraction of Entities 

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CELESTIAL MECHANICS--OR THE QUESTIONABLE ATTRACTION OF ENTITIES, Moving Dock Theatre Company, at National Pastime Theater. This ensemble-created piece supposedly exploring 3,000 years of astrophysics opens with the nine cast members milling about onstage, staring up in simulated wonder at a ceilingful of imaginary stars. It's a tableau that should resonate with everyone in the room, but like almost every other self-conscious, uncommitted gesture in Moving Dock's hour-long piece, it rings false. This troupe led by Dawn Arnold may indeed be dedicated to Michael Chekhov's movement-based technique, in which the "psychological gesture" is meant to convey the inner life, but it hasn't developed inner lives worth the trouble. Without meaningful connections to the movement or the text--the performers recite passages from such heavy hitters of astrophysics as Aristotle, Galileo, and Einstein--this tepid evening is without urgency or investment.

Conceptual rigor is also lacking: too often some cosmological wonder is reduced to an obvious gesture. To portray the big bang, the cast clump together, then burst apart with a scream--pretty much the same way they embody the formation of stars and black holes. To present Kepler's theory of the planets' harmonic orbits, they walk in circles and sing harmonic tones. Given the mind-bending wonders of the heavens, it's unfathomable that there's so little intrigue and mystery here.

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