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A CurtainUp Review
By Julia Furay
The Dome is basically made up of three overarching stories, each written by different playwrights and helmed by a different director: 1. Hey Baby, about a man and woman expecting their first child (music and lyrics by Marisa Michelson, book and lyrics by Rinne Groff, directed by May Adrales) 2. Break Time, which tells the story of two building caretakers exploring the theatre during their break (written and directed by David A. Miller) 3. Hypothesis, chronicling the rocky relationship between Voltaire and his brilliant lover, Emilie (written by Laura Marks and directed by Stefanie Sertich). While the Voltaire and pregnancy stories deal mostly with the major themes of the play, Break Time focuses on the performance space itself. It's in this piece that we are told about the theater's history and introduced to the implike ghosts who are responsible for the evening's most mysterious occurrences. There's very little set from designer Meredith Ries — just a few tables and some risers — but the dome of the theatre itself is often used for projections of the universe, formulas and various other relevant images, designed by videographer Richard Dibella.
For starters, the good news. Norman Lasca's various monologues are excellent, with standouts including a paean to Giants Stadium winningly recited by Travis Allen, and a story about a teenage girl's favorite shoes, which is delivered with an impressive series of gymnastic exertions by cast member Britt Lower. While the actors generally seem hemmed in by the writing problems, Dorothy Abrahams as Voltaire's lover Emilie gives a poised and intelligent portrait of a woman ahead of her time, and Sarah Bowles as Missy the caretaker is wonderfully spirited and energetic. However, the three major stories are for the most part too clumsy, containing lots of ideas and interesting bits of history but little to keep the audience engaged in terms of character or storyline. To give an example, it's always pretty clear how Hey Baby is going to end, and the characters within aren't quite engaging enough to make up for the predictability.
No doubt this is partially due to making this a collage of the work of different artists, composers and playwrights. The music is uneven, reflecting its varied authorship without the needed unifying quality. Parts of the show feel like pure musical theatre (particularly Hey Baby), parts have a chorale sound, and parts of the score sounded so synthetic that I almost suspected the music came from a cell phone.
The Dome is unquestionably a heartfelt piece. Its lack of irony stands in stark contrast to so much of what's out there these days. The show's sweet wonder about the universal mysteries of life, when combined with the unwavering visual beauty of the show, lead to snatches of genuinely moving theatre. Too often, though, the soaring vision of the play is let down by its lack of craftsmanship.