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Rapid change, escapism the themes of Motion Sickness


Beau Jest Moving Theater.

Dec. 31, Suffolk University.


APLAY WITH THE UNLIKELY NAME of Motion Sickness stole my heart on First Night. Steven Henson, who plays both narrator and a variety of characters, explains that motion sickness is what happens to people who undergo rapid, unpredictable, tumultuous movement. The only way to avoid it is to stay where you are.

But some people's lives are intolerable; they cannot remain in one place. Motion Sickness follows the travels of five exceptional characters representative of the passions within each of us. Henson's character is a sage, an amateur poet of sorts, who talks of sharing boxcars with Faulkner and watching sunsets with Einstein. He keeps moving because if he didn't, he wouldn't get anywhere.

Motion Sickness comprises five independent story lines, each centered upon one member of the company. The stories are our own: a fed-up Lisa Tucker plays a woman who is tired of the daily headaches of living in the city; late for work, she hires a taxi and has it drive her to Vermont.

Elyse Garfinkle's voyage is more into the realm of danger than distance. She plays a little girl who cajoles her father into taking her to the beach. He forbids her to swim in the ocean, but she does anyway, and swims away from the shore until she can't find her way back.

Then there are those who plan their escapes. When Bob (David Robenson) and Ann (Karen Tarjan) end their relationship at the beginning of the play, Bob takes a vacation to an exotic European village where nobody speaks English; Ann sells all of her possessions and moves into an empty apartment, reveling in the simplicity of her new existence.

The travels are interesting by themselves, but motion sickness, as Henson narrates, is an inevitable consequence of violent movement. Soon each voyager is in over his or her head; precise acting and tack-sharp choreography force the audience to empathize with the characters' plights. A combination of comedy and suspense rivets attention to the stage.

The play has few props. Instead, the actors use one another to set the stage and scene, playing everything from townspeople to fish to airplane windows. Best is when Garfinkle's head pops out of a suitcase that David Robenson is carrying; she plays his conscience. The characters are all so distinct, and the force of the play so directed, that the audience has no trouble keeping everything separate. Good music, dancing, and lyrics drive the performance forward as the characters search for a simple, carefree existence.

"I don't know if I'm going to live, but I know I'm going to land!" says Henson after he jumps from an airplane and his parachute fails to open. Humor and movement are the main ingredients of this production, which was written by the company in collaboration with writer James Taylor. Each player marvelously exploits her or his talents for mime, dance, and song.

Motion Sickness will be shown next at the Majestic Theater on March 22-23.