The Theory of Everything Explained: “Supergravity and the Eleventh Dimension”

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Photo Credit: Paul Cantillon, LIDEC Photo

Presented by Vagabond Theatre Group
By Heather Houston
Directed by James Peter Sotis

July 11 – 20, 2013
The Factory Theatre
Boston, MA
Vagabond Theatre Group Facebook Page

Review by Kitty Drexel

(Boston) Einstein’s Law of Thermodynamics states that “energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.” This quote from a beloved theoretical physicist describes the natural state of constant flux in the world around us. This quote is often bastardized by Religion* to explain the existence of God, a Super-creator from whence all the energy of life flows. God must exist, they paraphrase, because the energy to create the universe must have come from somewhere… It must have come from God! Ladies and Gentlemen, God and Science can sit at the same table but this isn’t the room they sit in.

It has been a year since Carmen (Rachel Katherine Alexander) died under tragic circumstances. Tom (Kevin Paquette), also a theoretical physicist and her friend, attempts to use physics to answer the question, “where do we go when we die?” His theories involve supergravity (a field theory that combines the principles of supersymmetry and general relativity (aka SUGRA)) and the eleventh dimension (a potential candidate for the Theory of Everything).  Like any good science attempting to root out truths, the theories are complicated. To sum up: Tom doesn’t explain what happens to us when we die but his work in theoretical physics does explain what happens to the flow of relationships when the energy source providing momentum is removed. Please see the show for more information.

Supergravity and the Eleventh Dimension is a generally well-written, albeit overwheling, drama. Playwright Heather Houston gives her audience the benefit of the doubt. She expects her viewers to be clever/smart/quick enough to understand the science. By assuming our relative intelligence, the plot does not get trapped  in a vicious cycle of constant explanation; we are gifted with actual plot. Houston’s only mistake was in overestimating how much science and plot the audience could digest in one sitting. The first act has just enough theory and character development to keep the audience interested and the actors busy. The second act doubles up on development but doesn’t provide a study tutorial for the theories discussed in the first act. Like too many college students on spring break, we forgot what we learned before intermission. Thank you for respecting our intelligence. Next time, please slow down.

Intellectual confusion aside, the cast is great. They are consistent and lovable even when behaving like jerks. For example, Leslie (Alyssa Purnhagen) and Dan (Devon Scalisi) are constantly bickering like an old couple. They shouldn’t be friends but the natural chemistry between Purnhagen and Scalisi make their bitching believable.

Supergravity and the Eleventh Dimension is not a show for the common man. If you did not follow up their high school education with a few physics classes in college, this one may fly over your head. The science hasn’t been dumbed down for immature audiences and neither have the discussions about potential life energy after death. We plebes may specifically ask if there’s a God or a Heaven. Physicists ask the question and keep asking until they discover an answer.

*All of the “science” contained in the link can easily be debunked. Don’t lazily complain to me that I haven’t debunked it; do your own research like a big kid. This is a theatre blog. Bitch about how hard science is somewhere else.

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