Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Square Root of Minus One"

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"The Square Root of Minus One"

by Peter Morris
Directed by Steven Cosson

Set Design by Robert Pyzocha
Costume Design by Harriet Voyt
Lighting Design by Dina Gjersten
Sound Design by Kristin A. Carlson
Fight Director Robert Walsh
Stage Manager Elizabeth Moloney

Dr. Thatcher Cuttymeat.........Thomas Reiff
Colfelt....................................Andy Powers
Stull..................................Matthew Greene
Dewis....................................Thomas Shaw
Waitress.............................Sarah Newhouse
Mr. Landis Boning...............William Church
Wiggins.....................................Jack Ferver
Reverend Horace Sweeton.....Ray McDavitt

In "The Square Root of Minus One" playwright Peter Morris deals, graphically, with nudity, homosexuality, discipline, sado-masochism, masturbation and submission (amid the students) and fatuous, self-serving hypocrisy (among the faculty) of a posh boys boarding-school where only one out of four students (and none of the faculty) even thinks of rules of civil behavior. The one --- the point-of-view character --- is a bewildered natural mathematician fascinated by the depravities of everyone around him who searches for the moral equivalent of a useful imaginary number, such as the title, to make sense of it all. The play is a little dated, a little English, but under Steven Cosson's direction, intensely acted.

That intensity is odd here. Since the play strives to be scathingly satirical, most of the characters are really stereotypes. Calling the headmaster "Cuttymeat" and a dodderingly hard of hearing parson "Sweeton" or adding an orotund echo to the headmaster's pontifications on the school as a tough alma mater --- all that makes them less people than cardboard targets. The villainous bullies start their rule-breaking by smoking on-campus and arguing the merits of grand opera versus "that hot new Negro music" and using (though mispronouncing) French phrases.

But the nudity and the beatings and humiliations are painfully real, felt and inflicted with passion, and with one curious, reluctant observer/participant trying to make human sense of it every step of the way. Jack Ferver's hesitant, uncomprehending victim and Thomas Shaw's always emotional questioner are thoroughly, humanly involved in their different moral dilemmas. The rest are precise, presentational realizations of abstract evil in matter-of-fact dress. The mix distances the audience --- the night I attended there was little laughter at obvious self-deception, and much more a riveted silence.
This is a comedy that outgrew its giggles; a fascinating show.

Love,
===Anon.


"The Square Root of Minus One" (15 September - 7 October)
MARKET THEATER
One Winthrop Square, Harvard Yard, CAMBRIDGE, MA
(617) 576-0808


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |