On Ego: A Bundle of Questions

On Ego by Mick Gordon (playwright) and Paul Broks (neuroscientist), Science Fiction Theatre Company, Factory Theatre, 3/30/12-4/15/12, http://www.sciencefictiontheatrecompany.com/.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Boston, MA) Quantum Leap and Star Trek have enticed us with the possibility of travelling through time and space through a transporter of some sort.  When I used to work an hour and a half away from my home, I longed for a teleportation device that would transport me home in the blink of an eye.

But while the fiction is intriguing, the science leaves a lot of mystery and questions before we take that leap.  On Ego focuses on a scientist who has used Francis Crick’s theories of “bundle theory” to create his own teleportation device (*note:  most science fiction uses “string theory” as its basis).

Francis Crick’s “bundle theory” states that the brain is simply a bundle of neurons that provide the information for the body to function.  The idea of a soul is looked upon as an illusory device that ties people down and prevents objectivity in regards to manipulating those neurons and using them to our advantage.

Alex, played by Eric McGowan, starts out by lecturing on these principles.  McGowan is enthusiastic and passionate and gives us a scientist worthy of a Ted Talk.  At the end of the “lecture,” Alex puts himself on his transporter on his way to his anniversary dinner.   But something goes wrong…

Alex’s wife, Alice (Alissa Cordeiro) has just received news that she has a “butterfly tumor” in her brain and that she is going to die.  When Alice and Alex finally have dinner, Alice seems reluctant to tell Alex about her tumor and to simply enjoy the moment.  Cordeiro, believably straddles between normality and this debilitating condition while creating a very realistic character who is dealing with the tension within her marriage and her family.

We find out that Derrick (Chuck Schwager), who is a head researcher and helps Alex with his work, is actually Alice’s estranged father.  Through his interactions with Alex, we learn that this estrangement happened due to Derrick’s work, which is now Alex’s work.  Chuck Schwager has a certain Christopher Walken feel to his performance, which makes Derrick both creepy and yet a flawed individual.

Like an engrossing episode of The Twilight Zone, the science is a means for exploring the relationships between these three characters in a heightened matter that they cannot hide from.  While there are a few slow moments, this play achieves the best of science fiction by exploring humanity and man’s place in the world.  At the same time, the science is tight and stimulates exploration and discovery of particle transportation.



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