Quantum Theatre’s Plano offers bizarre time warp in the Lone Star state | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Quantum Theatre’s Plano offers bizarre time warp in the Lone Star state

click to enlarge Quantum Theatre’s Plano  offers bizarre time warp in the Lone Star state (2)
Photo: Jason Snyder
Plano at Quantum Theatre
It’s hard to say what happens (or happened) in Quantum Theatre’s new production of Will Arbery’s Plano, now playing through Sun., April 24 in the former TechShop storefront at Bakery Square, but it’s happening again and again, slightly weirder each time. Layers and loops of memories that could be nightmares, and nightmares that could be memories carry the story. There are slugs and men with multiplying bodies (and the women who love them) in this play directed by Adil Mansoor.

Because the characters struggle, sometimes desperately, with their inability to explain what is happening to them, the plot is wide open to interpretation. That is to say, this is a play where the manner in which Arbery reveals the contours of his story could be as meaningful as the content of the story itself. If you’re into that kind of analysis, I’d recommend seeing Plano without reading the rest of my review.

Plano is a story about the metaphysical disorientation of trauma that is itself a disorienting experience. Or it could be about faith and the consequences of what and who we choose to believe in. Or it could be about how, as one character notes early on in the play, having a family is like a haunting. Or it could be about how structuring one’s life around a desire to be “good” also invites the terrifying specter of not being “good” enough. Or it could be about three sisters in a cursed suburban family doomed to live in a nasty time warp. Or it could be about all of the above.

The story concerns three sisters, Anne (Lisa Velten Smith), Genevieve (Julianne Avolio), and Isabel (Moira Quigley), who live with their respective romantic partners, Juan/John (Jerreme Rodriguez), Steve (Tim McGeever), and Faceless Ghost (taylor knight), in suburban Texas.
click to enlarge Quantum Theatre’s Plano  offers bizarre time warp in the Lone Star state (3)
Photo: Jason Snyder
Plano at Quantum Theatre
Anne is having a baby with Juan, who may or may not prefer John, and also may or may not prefer men, and may or may not be marrying Anne to get a green card. Anne is losing herself, or is she already lost?

Genevieve gets a call from Steve that he’s lost in Plano as he also walks out the back door to stand beside her on the porch. She discovers that there may or may not be, but probably are, at least two Steves. While Steve is experiencing previously unimaginable spaciousness, Genevieve feels increasingly trapped.

Isabel is sick and lonely and sad and may or may not be becoming a saint. She may be living with or being stalked by the Faceless Ghost who reads My Struggle, the six-part autobiography by Norwegian literary sensation Karl Ove Knausgaard.

The women try not to suffocate in the fog of internal monologues that sometimes spew out as external monologues. At first, the dialogue even seems to move time. “We’re going down to Juarez for New Year’s … See you later. It’s later. Juarez was wonderful,” Anne rattles off as months pass in an instant.

But when those time-lapses come unhinged from causative clues, things slowly spiral out of control, building to a frenetic pace interrupted only by the surprise appearance of a woman named Mary (Cary Anne Spear).

Although the story hurdles through time and space, Stephanie Mayer-Staley’s set visually grounds the play on an angular, whitewashed back porch dotted with eerie pottery in a bleak Texas suburbia that is nonetheless quite interesting to look at.

In contrast to the unity of Mayer-Staley’s set, Xotchil Musser’s lighting design helps to create vibrant, trippy scenes that are neither here nor there, while also offering signposts that could help the audience locate themselves within the time warp.

As the three sisters, Smith, Avolio, and Quigley affect a brilliant intensity, each experiencing their misery in a different emotional register. They play off each other with dialogue that ricochets through Plano’s iterations, repetitions, and distortions.

Quantum Theatre presents Plano. Showtimes vary. Continues through Sun., April 24. Bakery Square. 192 Bakery Square Blvd., Larimer. $18-42. quantumtheatre.com

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