It seems right that a play about the brevity of life should only last 40 minutes. This was the case with “Kaleidoscope,” the Ray Bradbury one-act produced by the Players’ Theatre Group.
The story begins with an average day aboard a spaceship as the crew members check in with an automated psychoanalyst. Suddenly the ship is hit by a meteor, ripping it apart and launching each crew member in a different direction. With the ship destroyed and a limited supply of oxygen, there is no chance that the crew members will survive, but they still have radio contact with each other as they drift apart.
Character traits established in the opening scene are expanded upon here, and the actors do a mostly good job of distinguishing their roles. Captain Hollis (Frances Harrison) and Applegate (Margaret Kowalski) have an especially turbulent relationship. Kowalski is good as an aggressive crew member who challenges her superior as often as possible, but Harrison wavers in her portrayal of the Captain.
Part of this is the character’s slipping confidence, but sometimes it was unclear which emotion Harrison was representing.
One of the biggest challenges involved in producing this one-act is the setting: There is no static set, since the only thing unifying the characters after the accident is their radio connection. This production handled this problem well: for most of the play the characters drifted on and off an unlit stage while illuminating their own faces with flashlights. Before a character died, his or her flashlight would begin rapidly blinking and then switch off. This created an eerie and threatening feeling that suited the play well, but it also left the actors unable to see, and they occasionally tripped as they moved around the Eldred Blackbox theater.
The title is a reference to how Applegate describes a cloud of radio signals she is dragged into by a meteor: “A kaleidoscope. Look! Oh, beautiful. And taking me with it, me … I don’t deserve a trip like this. I never liked anything beautiful.”
As Kowalski says these lines, strings of lights and star-shaped paper lanterns around the walls turn on, bringing a rare moment of light to this production. It’s also one of the show’s prettiest moments, as Applegate is surrounded by twinkling lights as well as the voices of history’s most celebrated and hated men.
Applegate imagines herself surrounded by these voices forever: “Churchill will still be talking, Hitler will still be mad and Roosevelt will still be saying there’s nothing to fear, nothing.”
This scene, as well as the play as a whole, seems to imply that in a life this lonely, we can’t be picky about the company we keep. In a universe this dark and isolating, we should be grateful for the people we have and try to enjoy the ride we get.
Director: Merit Glover
Production dates: Nov. 6 and 7, 11 p.m.