Like the futuristic doohickey that sets the events of the story in motion, Edward Einhorn’s novel-to-stage adaptation of The Lathe of Heaven has a soporific effect. This version of Ursula K. Le Guin’s brainy 1971 sci-fi classic is plagued by dry philosophical speeches; the flat, harried way the actors deliver them; and the atonal operatic strains (composed by Henry Akona and performed by John Gallop III) that meander through the proceedings like a wayward school of dream fish.
Yes, dream fish and dream horses, dream spaceships and dream plague victims: All these objects drift intangibly across the monolithic, gauzy screens that serve as a backdrop for Untitled Theater Company No. 61’s production. The sprawling story follows George Orr (Robert Honeywell), a poor schlub whose dreams have the power to transform the world around him. When an ambitious psychiatrist, Dr. Haber (Eric Oleson), gets his mitts on our man, he uses the aforementioned doohickey, a techno helmet (which looks like upside-down plastic underwear), to control Orr’s unconscious, thereby molding the world into his vision of utopia—with catastrophic results.
Einhorn’s vision, like Haber's, is elegant in theory and disappointing in practice. Lathe fails to convey the scope and detail of Le Guin’s dystopic future America, so it’s hard to really feel anything when our hero wails about having unwittingly annihilated half the planet’s population; the “real world” in this hermetically sealed production is just as immaterial as his dreams. Kate Freer and David Tennant’s videos and Chip Rogers’s sound design are frequently mesmerizing, but the play around them is airless. Untitled calls itself a “theater of ideas,” and that’s all that its take on Lathe is: ideas without spirit, concepts without emotions.—Jenna Scherer