One of this town’s many fine smaller stage troupes, Caravan Theatre of Pittsburgh, does itself proud with this strange and ambitious play about the cult-hero science-fiction author.
Even if you’ve never read a word Dick wrote, you know his concepts: Films from Bladerunner and Total Recall to Minority Report and A Scanner Darkly are based on his writings about the blurring lines between humans and androids, memory and falsehood, the future and the present.
Victoria Stewart’s play 800 Words: The Transmigration of Philip K. Dick smartly and imaginatively summons the author’s spirit with a play whose form is adapted from Dick’s own aesthetics.
The play is largely set in 1982, on the very day Dick died, in his San Francisco flat. But it’s built around a divine revelation Dick believes he had several years earlier, and his efforts to write and publish a massive “exegesis” on God.
Just as Dick wrote about the present collapsing into the future, so in 800 Words does time seem unstable, with events from decades apart overlapping. And just like Dick made himself a character in his fictions, so does Stewart herself show up as a major character in Act 2, to hilarious if ultimately unnerving effect.
Caravan co-founders John Gresh and Dana Hardy play Dick and his long-suffering wife, Tessa. (“It’s just words,” Tessa says of one of her husband’s promises; he responds, “That’s all I have.”) The often manic action involves puppets, including Dick’s talking cat. The excellent supporting cast is expertly directed by Martin Giles.
A Dick fan I ran into at the show, staged at Pittsburgh Playwrights’ Downtown venue, said the play had inspired him to dig back into Dick’s writings.
Here’s Michelle Pilecki’s review for CP.
There are four more performances starting tomorrow, including a Sunday matinee. Tickets are $15-20.