By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor
Some stories roll themselves out, maybe like a rug, over the course of the telling.
Arun Lakra’s play Sequence turns in on itself in two subtly tightening tales that we might imagine as two circling tigers who could eventually eat their own tails.
Or, as Mr. Lakra said in a pre-show interview with The Chronicle, consider the form of the play as a double helix.
The Theatre Fest afforded me opportunity to sit in on Monday’s rehearsal, before the show was to open Tuesday — at the Wood Theater, of course.
ATF’s five-day performance schedule and The Chronicle’s weekly production schedule are doing their own twisted dance, so otherwise, I couldn’t have seen anything of the show in time to say anything about the show before it was gone.
Sequence tells two stories: One is of Time Magazine’s “Luckiest Man Alive,” who has successfully bet double-or-nothing on the outcome of the Super Bowl coin toss for 20 years. On the eve of the 21st, and a billion-dollar payoff, a young woman claims to have figured his secret.
Meanwhile, a professor confronts the seemingly unluckiest of students who answered 150 consecutive test questions incorrectly — yet still believes his luck is good, and evidence of a higher power.
So often the answer to a play or story is predictable, hidden obvious in the text as the tale unfolds. Here, as the stories twist and twirl, as parallels emerge and cross each other, the solution seems — reachable, even evident, and yet unknowable.
As directed by Marshal Pailet, the show climaxes in a moment that bursts the heart, conjures infinity. It answers its questions in a way that is loud and immediate, satisfying and yet unexpected.
Praise to playwright Mr. Lakra for writing a tense, straight-out drama in a theatrical environment where I suspect the push is for more “dramedy,” or for plays that at least come with a caveat: “It’s a drama — but it’s still funny!”
This one has its moments of amusement, but it is at its best when it plays out what it is: A tight and sticky story, the dot-to-dot detail of it. That’s where the pleasure is, where the energy and the pitch belong.
TV and the streaming platforms have their dense, even dark, and satisfying stories. Like them, this play asks you to listen in, to catch it and decipher its rich language and characters.
Do the stories relate? Will these human characters connect or discard one another? What is this world they live in? Is it even ours? Where is the magic, the God, the science? Can we know?
Mr. Pailet’s previous shows for ATF were the blockbuster, larger-than-life musicals Nicola Tesla Drops the Beat and Loch Ness. Sequence is smaller, yet Mr. Pailet brings his unique theatrical sense of pizzazz to its tiny corners and its big ideas.
Praise to him, and to the Theatre Festival itself for sticking with the drama.
Praise to the quartet of actors. You’ll enjoy seeing how they inhabit their characters, intensely specific yet also pieces of that ever-turning puzzle.
By the time this Chronicle hits the stand, only three performances remain. Tix: $34-$45, including opportunity to sit on stage (for an up-close view, not to interact with the show, ATF promises). Call: 480-4878.
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