Is it Worth the Stars?

This Thursday night, Owl and Nightingale Players opened the winter show Antlia Pneumatica by Anne Washburn. The show is about a group of friends reuniting after what seemed to be around 10 years of varying levels of separation for the funeral of friend they had all lost touch with. It’s a show surrounded by death, the meaning of life, and reflections on the decisions we’ve made.

Guest director Lana Russell describes the show as being about “grace and liberation” and hopes audience members will “make [their] own meaning.”

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That being said, it may be a bit difficult with this show. The messages aren’t as clouded as they might be, but the show is definitely designed to be poetic and a tad cryptic. At the beginning, the meanings seems to pretty clearly be about morality and death what with the friends reflecting on their own inevitable demise. From there on out, the most direct messages are conveyed either by the two child roles or in a dream. Still, it’s all like a puzzle that fits together up until the end. There is, though, a pretty big bomb dropped at the end, and, honestly, I thought that it was the start of intermission not the end of the show. I felt completely lost when the actors left the stage despite thinking that I had kept a pretty good grasp on the show. Then again, maybe that’s what Washburn was going for.

Interspersed between these confusing parts, there are plenty of hilarious and relatable moments to carry the show. College students have much to laugh about as the friends recount drunken conversations and children interrupt the heaviness of the show’s themes. Some of these moments are a bit lessened by the obviousness of the actors’ younger ages compared to the characters. Don’t get me wrong, they do a great job. That level of recollection upon those stupid college days just isn’t there as heavily as it could have been.

That being said, there were moments where the actors are able to pull forward extremely specific memories of lost friends and family. For example, near the beginning of the show when the friends were exchanging stories under the stars, I was vividly reminded of exchanging stories after my grandmother died because she would want us to remember the happy times instead of getting caught up in the sadness of death.

Lastly, the lighting and design for this show was phenomenal! The color scheme is perfect for a hesitantly bright show. Not to mention that the show interacts with the audience's sense in such a way to really pull you into the scene. The actors get right up into spaces usually reserved for the audience through their movement, singing, and even the smells from the cooking happening on the stage. The absolute best effect, though, was when the rafters of Kline are lit up in a night sky. There is no other way to describe it other than the rafter were glowing, and I couldn’t draw my eyes away!

So, make sure you eat beforehand and come on out to see Antlia Pneumatica this Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday for a confusing but uplifting show about making your mark in the world. And make sure to get there early for a little pre-show performance.