100 Years: Superlative Performances Enhance Futuristic Science Fiction Comedy-Drama
“100 Years is an ambitious and intriguing comedy-drama”
By Bob Rendell for Talkin’ Broadway | October 14, 2014
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John Pietrowski & Stacie Lents play neighbors Raymond & Joan in 100 Years.
“This quartet of superb actors unveils recognizable and human frailties that truly touch us.”
Richard Dresser’s 100 Years is an ambitious and intriguing comedy-drama that explores philosophic ideas about the meaning and value of human lives and mankind’s bumbling and self-destructive efforts to preserve our ecosystem in the context of an absurdist futuristic dystopia in which a biotech start-up is preparing to explode a man’s body in its own unique rapid-fire cell chamber, and then reconstitute the cells in a process that will span one hundred years (I am extrapolating so precise a length of time from a less precise long period of time referenced in the text and the play’s title) in order to extend his life for hundreds of years. It is also a comedy about domestic relations, and a horror story that evokes a particular and perverse Hitchcock thriller.
The setting of the play is the courtyard of two townhouses in a planned community in Florida. The time is ominously “Soon, Very Soon.”
I have probably revealed too much already. Yet a major problem with 100 Years is that, after neatly misdirecting viewers with his description of the play’s setting, Dresser takes far too long to enlighten us as to the real purpose of the presence of the two couples occupying the cabins. This allows ennui to set in until he sets matters aright with the chilling and ominous scene that brings the first act to an unexpectedly effective and affecting conclusion.
The second act, chockablock with philosophic considerations about the value and satisfactions of life as well as its absurdist, futuristic plot consistently held my interest even, or, likely, especially, when I found myself rejecting some of the author’s outlook. Particularly timely is the issue of the existential danger that can arise when philosophical and political considerations dictate policies that are antithetical to our health, safety and survival.
Dresser is much in debt to director Laura Ekstrand whose production is pitch perfect. Given the play’s complications, the oddity of its characters, and its bumpy meshing of genres, Ekstrand’s understanding and realization of 100 Years is extraordinary.
The two couples are initially as odd and alien as their dislocated situation. Raymond (John Pietrowski), a bullying, manipulative and/or senile, wealthy son of a bitch, disdainfully dominates his faded, cowering dishrag of a wife Helen (Harriett Trangucci). The devoted Joan (Stacie Lents) has been rendered fearfully lonely by Stevie (Eli Ganias), her socially maladjusted husband who has withdrawn into silence. As a result of their desperation and interaction, each of the four changes. Without a single false or jarring step, this quartet of superb actors unveils recognizable and human frailties that truly touch us. It is a daunting achievement without which 100 Years would be didactic. Dresser also must receive credit for this, but the superb reading that the play is receiving here will prove difficult to match.
Ekstrand’s superb actors’ repertory company, Dreamcatcher Repertory, is co-producing 100 Years with John Pietrowski’s Playwrights Theatre.
“Dresser is much in debt to director Laura Ekstrand whose production is pitch perfect… Ekstrand’s under-standing and realization of 100 Years is extraordinary.”
Bob Rendell, Talkin’ Broadway