Puppets enact a cosmic allegory about the end of the world.
Mon Dec 20 2010
Photograph: Jim Baldassare
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
In the lobby of the Baruch Performing Arts Center, a diminutive remote-controlled robot resembling Stephen Hawking greets theatergoers. As he mechanically chirps out a description of our universe's final demise—and a plea to silence all cell phones—one gets a preshow taste of Baby Universe's disarmingly effective mix of quantum physics and poignant humanity.
The sun is dying and, having expanded into a red giant star, is about to engulf the Earth. We learn through unsettling news bulletins delivered via "Apocalypse Radio" that humankind has taken to living in bunkers below the planet's scorched surface; rain is only a distant memory. The only hope for survival lies in nurturing a lab-created "baby universe" to maturity and colonizing a habitable world. While most of these man-made cosmoses have the nasty habit of collapsing upon themselves, Baby Universe 7,001 is divinely special. A precocious youngster raised by his spinster mother and pursued by the vengeful sun's planetary henchmen, this universe is mankind's sole salvation.
Anything but cute and cuddly, Baby Universe is startlingly moving, blending dark humor with a dystopian vision and messianic allegory. And while there are some narrative missteps, the captivating puppet imagery—ranging from 7,001's haloed Bunraku-style mother to the hulking crimson sun, a full-bodied construction with glowing yellow eyes—more than makes up for it. In this affecting universe, the puppets might just be the brightest stars of all.
Rose Nagelberg Theatre at the Baruch Performing Arts Center. Written and directed by Kirjan Waage and Gwendolyn Warnock. With ensemble cast. 1hr. No intermission.