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Larry Littany Litt



"Cosmicomics," based on the novel by Italo Calvino
Presented by The New Stage Theatre Company
Directed by Ildiko Nemeth
At New Stage Theatre, 36 West 106th St. NYC
Reviewed April 17, 2022 by Larry Litt

To imagine who you really are and where you originally come from is one of humankind’s greatest goals. Contemporary social critics are always telling people that being themselves is an appropriate starting point to live a fulfilled life. But how do we know we’re on the right track? This is the question Italo Calvino’s novel "Cosmicomics" attempts to answer.

L-R: Markus Hirnigel, Tanner Glenn, Jeanne Lauren Smith, Beth Griffith, Florencia Minitti, Justin Ivan Brown, Jude Kondik, Yoni Kallai, Olimpia Dior. Photo by Richard Termine.

In the masterful hands of veteran playwright and director Ildiko Nemeth, Calvino’s many questions as displayed in connected vignettes by superb acting and ensemble movement. Nemeth’s answer for starters is to show the origin of the cosmos as Calvino wrote it. Not an easy job. Calvino contemplates the entire multi-billion year History of Everything from big bangs to contemporary little women and men.
The stunning projected animations and visuals created by Isabelle Duverger and Laia Cabrera project a dramatic alternative reality on this journey from scientific abstractions to mankind’s emotional confusion. The visuals ask the same questions as the novel while Nemeth’s cast plays in and around this cosmic setting.

Paul Guilfoyle. Photo by Richard Termine.

Nemeth’s storyteller/narrator Paul Guilfoyle sets a calm tone for exploration of the cosmic history. His passionate tone is both very human and almost godlike. Listening to him I felt like the world was being created for the love stories about to unfold. There’s always another love story he says.
Long time New Stage actress Jeanne Lauren Smith gives one of her funniest performances as an evolved shore dweller who falls madly in love with a sea dwelling fish convincingly played by  roguish Justin Ivan Brown aquatically outfitted with scales and fins. It was love at first sight and swim.

Lisa Giobbi, Florencia Minitti, Olimpia Dior, Beth Griffith, Markus Hirnigel. Photo by Richard Termine.

In a brilliantly comedic piece of solo vignette scientist Markus Hirnigel convinces us there is intelligent life on other planets. The interplanetary messages are not merely sound or radar telescope signals, they are revelations of personal surveillance. The messages and the scientist’s responses are a laughter filled spoof on intelligent life theories. What if the aliens are just as annoying as we are? Could we stand them and their irony? You can decide.
Several of the vignettes are ensembles showing off Nemeth’s ability to create new meanings in the face of romantic challenges and overblown egos. Using dance as a communication between enamored characters Nemeth matches charming young actor Tanner Glenn with experienced aerial artist/choreographer Lisa Giobbi posing as his mythical, ritualistic, all powerful Woman-in-White love object who vanishes when colors suddenly appear in their world. This vignette especially was a duet of matching talent.

Actors: Tanner Glenn, Lisa Giobbi. Photo by Richard Termine.

Each of the vignettes are worthy theatrical endeavors with their own characters and meanings. I highly recommend “Cosmicomics” both as a transformed example of Italo Calvino’s writing and European thinking and as an evening of engaging, inspiring theater.


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