Sovereign

Recommended
4 out of 5 stars
Sovereign
Photograph: Deborah Alexander

To those who have not seen the first two parts of the Mac Rogers science-fiction epic the Honeycomb Trilogy, I say, “I am one of you, and you should have no fear.” Sovereign bears a happily apposite title: The crackling alien-takeover drama can operate independently of its former installments. In fact, winding blind through the narrative maze (Why is Florida now called Coral Settlement? Where did all our technology go?) creates the sensation of gradually unfolding truth, of hearing a story at the edge of great complexity. As for those who saw sections one and two, I'm assuming you were there at the Secret Theatre ahead of me. Who could stay away?

At Sovereign's outset, the insectoid invaders are on the run. A bedraggled humanity is now in the cleanup phase of its ugly guerrilla campaign, and Coral Settlement's war-hero governor, Ronnie (Hanna Cheek), has bigger bugs to fry than our piddling concerns about backstory. Ronnie may be chair-bound by both injury and gubernatorial responsibility, but Cheek starts the show at a theatrical sprint. She snarls at new-minted lawyers Zander (a marvelous Matt Golden) and Tanya (Medina Senghore) as they argue cases before her, brightening only when her old comrades enter the room. Of course bureaucracy has its consequences, and in one long night, Ronnie must decide the fate of her treacherous, humanity-hating brother Abbie (Stephen Heskett)—as well as the destiny of an entire ancient race.

Rogers talks in the program about having ancient influences, and you see them: Ronnie is a lusty Creon for the post-spaceflight age; Abbie is her self-righteous Antigone. Rogers is also returning to another “classical” paradigm, using sci-fi to discuss the Big Questions, just as Captain Kirk once parlayed with Soviet-era Klingons, and Doctor Who unilaterally spared the implacable, genocidal Daleks. And yet it's not to say that everything is ambition and gravitas and Platonic models. Director Jordana Williams occasionally lets a bit of goofiness slip through, particularly in the second tier of performances—which falls off pretty seriously from the first. But it's the first tier that matters. In Cheek's long series of downtown triumphs (Hostage Song, The Persians, The Pumpkin Pie Show), she has always seemed like an acting thoroughbred: compact, explosive, with a slightly wicked eye. Even so, I can not remember ever seeing her in such full, exultant stride.—Helen Shaw

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