Reviewed by Becca Kidwell
(Boston, MA, EARTH) The easiest thing in the world to do is to believe; the hardest thing to do in the world is to believe. When a woman disappears and a husband searches desperately to find her. She returns and her explanations seem dubious. The quest for answers and understanding has a price for each of the characters in Science Fiction Theatre Company’s production of Dark Matters by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Was Bridgett Cleary taken by aliens or by something much more nefarious? What is real and what is imagined? The Cleary family seeks the truth out in the world, but finds it much closer to home.Dark Matters is a play of secrets and questions. Bridgett Cleary (Lorna Nogueira) has been researching aliens since she was young to debunk their existence (well, that’s what she’s told her husband). Her disappearance leads to excavations of Bridgett’s past by her husband Michael (Brian McCarthy) and her daughter Julie (Isabelle Atwood Rabin). The incident connects and disconnects Julie with her father. And then Bridgett returns.
Isabelle Atwood Rabin masterfully plays the angst-ridden teenager with depth and even a little grace. While Julie definitely has internal and external problems–and not all of them about the present–Rabin has Julie balance that conflict with a definitive love and respect for her parents, which is unique and adds to the already contorted Cleary family.
Brian McCarthy shivers through fear, confusion, paranoia, and exhaustion as Julie’s father Michael. As there is no rest for Michael throughout the play there is no rest for McCarthy as well. At best, Michael is only sleep-deprived–at worst–well, there are so many possibilities. McCarthy has to put every part of his being into Michael and the result is someone that is frighteningly real and unreal.
Sheriff Egan (Stephen Radochia) propels the action as the investigator on the case. He is the only outsider. The Cleary family lives within itself; each member lives within her/himself. Egan brings realities to light that the family has not seen–or does not want to see. Stephan Radochia’s sheriff is a typical, normal rural sheriff…almost too normal for the world around himself.
Lorna Nogueira has a difficult job as Bridgett–not because Bridgett believes in aliens but because everything she does has to be sincere. Bridgett is a woman who has had secrets and has lied for the majority of her life–and yet did she have a choice? Are the lies simply protection against a rational world? Nogueira’s not telling; she’s keeping up the facade that stirs the story.
Dark Matters does not leave you with answers but with theories–Of which, one, two, many, or none may be valid. The Science Fiction Theatre Company’s first outing carries the audience away from linear thinking and plants doubt and suspicion around every corner; the moment one explanation is placed down another thorn is also put in place. Like our favorite sci-fi tv shows and movies, we are left breathless, in deep contemplation.