Bethany Sees the Stars, a premiere work from Copious Love Productions, considers escapism and otherworldly possibilities. It plays at West of Lenin through 9/9.
The great thing about new plays is they feel fresh and new, and ready to take you wherever. The trade-off with new plays is that it doesn’t always feel like they’ve tightened their route, either. Such is the case with Bethany Sees the Stars (by Emily Golden, directed by Kathryn Stewart), a charming play about youth, mythology, being present, and, yes, plenty of star-gazing.
There’s a lot to love about this play, and much of it is in the interactions of its title character and Atlas, a sweetly and painfully awkward teenage boy (played by Lola Rei Fukushima). Nuance is not a strong feature for him. Neither are friends, which he’s just gotten used to being without but desperately needs. Atlas’ frank attempts to navigate social expectations, dedicated insistence on literalism, and persistent attempts to please make him a character you just want to cheer for.
And, despite her many blunders, the same is true of Bethany (played by Jade Guillory-Kaub). Like Atlas, she’s carrying a world of hurt around on her shoulders and needs an outlet for it. So when a letter of questionable origin arrives and sends her on a rare journey to Mars, should she choose to accept, she’s all too eager to hoist all her hopes onto the voyage.
The trouble with Bethany’s mission, which will call upon her to leave all her friends, family, and familiar objects and conveniences behind, is her investment in doing so is never all that convincing. Her home life is frustrating and empty, surely, but it’s not the sort of hopelessness and urgency that launches one into orbit hastily and permanently.
The other characters are a mixed bag. Bethany’s dad (played by Daniel Christensen) is neither a compelling character in his own right nor advances our investment in hers. At best, he seems like a distraction. Fay, Bethany’s longtime best, and perhaps only, friend (played by Lauren Megan McCarthy), doesn’t give us much sense of investment early on, though after Atlas enters the picture things do crystallize a bit more. Atlas’ mom (played by Olivia Lee) is intriguing and her sense of emptiness plays well with Bethany’s. The gods — Cassiopeia, Andromeda, and especially the useless Perseus — make sense to the mythology but make for a bumpy dramatic departure. But McCarthy as a perfectly still statue is one of the most striking and memorable moments.
Like the title character’s intergalactic ambitions, Bethany Sees the Stars could probably benefit from reining it in; this work has 80-minute tight one-act written all over it. (As it stands, it comes in around 105 minutes plus intermission.) And while the Polaroid projections are wonderfully cute, the set design generally lacks an otherworldly feel, and the many set transitions are clunky and distracting; they’d likely do better with some basic blacked-out rehearsal cubes moved around on stage.
But I like where this voyage is going. And there’s a good chance you will, too.
Bethany Sees the Stars from Copious Love Productions runs through 9/9 at West of Lenin in Fremont. Tickets $7-$45 (sliding scale available for all), here. Accessibility notes: restrooms are gender-neutral, single-stall; theatre and common areas are wheelchair accessible.
Run time: just under 2 hours, with intermission.
Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of NWTheatre.org.