I started college right around the time of the famed Tech Boom in Silicon Valley. Having grown up in the Bay Area, suddenly having the price of EVERYTHING skyrocket, not being able to drive anywhere without getting snarled in a mess of angry traffic, and being a forlorn speck of black in a sea of blue button-up shirts and khaki pants was an immense shock to the system. Ten plus years on, I've grown accustomed to the geekspeak and tech toys that permeate the region. But for the most part, the technological savvy that grew the Valley to its present size and scope shot right over my head. So seeing Space Is Blue (and the Birds Fly in It) where 70 percent of the dialogue concerns the great mysteries of physics was kind of a stretch for me. But it's a highly appropriate choice of material for Pear Avenue Theatre, a fairly new community theatre in Mountain View.
Gregory Meyer's new play revolves around Philip, a British boy genius with a debilitating nervous system disorder that leaves him strapped to a wheelchair. He leaves his orphanage in England to undergo an experimental surgery that may correct his condition, and is placed by his doctor in a boarding house that takes in the riff and the raff of the local academic community. Helen, the proprietor of the boarding house, and Corinne, a kooky literature professor from Hungary form strong attachments to the bright and extremely polite young Phillip, who bowls them over with his brilliance in physics. In the meantime, Phillip manages to intimidate graduate student Walter, with both his revolutionary ideas and his quest for Helen's affections.
This might have been a more convincing premise had the young boy genius not been quite so very young. I'm not sure a nine or ten year old makes for a brilliant physicist AND convincing competition for a strapping young graduate student, and Philip's dialogue often sounded better suited to an octogenarian than a middle schooler. The audience is also invited to suspend a healthy amount of skepticism in accepting a brain surgery involving incisions into the skull which results in a patient who cannot speak for a week while waiting for the stitches to come out.
The actors make a valiant effort to keep the ponderous academic dialogue and often heavy-handed plot devices from overwhelming the momentum of the play and often succeed. Philip is played by the immensely likeable George Murrell, who faces a Herculean task in memorizing and delivering a huge amount of material on how time is the only immutable force and logic is the fundamental quantum. There is a key shift in his personality in the final scene that is less than convincing, but by then the gaping black holes in the plot make this a moot matter.
Susan Jackson gives a spirited performance as the Hungarian literary academic and Rob Dario as Walter, the grad student, makes a convincing character out of often contradictory lines. I was also highly impressed with the elaborate set that allowed for very dynamic staging and the delightfully appropriate costumes.
The matinee performance I attended was at nearly full capacity, suggesting that Pear Avenue Theatre, with its unlikely location in a small office park near the Shoreline movie theaters in Mountain View, could benefit from a larger space with more seating. While their season ends with this production, they are already gearing up for the next, with seven productions in the works starting with Anton Checkov's Three Sisters in September.
Space Is Blue (and the Birds Fly in It) runs through July 15, 2007 at the Pear Avenue Theatre in Mountain View. For tickets and information visitingthepear.org.