Drama / Characters: 3 male, 4 female
Scenery: Exterior with set pieces and projections
This free structured look at the 1986 Challenger disaster places the teacher who died with six others as they hurtled into space at the center of an exploration of our need to reach beyond ourselves and dare the universe. Defying Gravity artfully interweaves the past with the present and the lives of participants and bystanders, drawing parallels among painter Claude Monet's artistic quest, the zest of the teacher selected to the first civilian astronaut, the perspectives of her grieving daughter, the aspirations of elderly tourists who drive their Winnebago to Florida to watch the space shot and dream of hotels in space, the guilt felt by a NASA mechanic and his girl friend's fear of heights.
"Flies high in its attempt to describe man's fascination with space and its conquest.... You will certainly not be bored." N.Y. Post.
"[A] clever and uplifting fantasy ... [with] ear catching musings about art, religion and the outer limits of human possibility." N.Y. Times.
"A lovely piece.... It floats gracefully in the big blue yonder of the imagination ... letting Anderson's delicate, tender and human attitude toward her characters come through.... One by one they rise out of their earthbound selves ... to look down on the world from a new perspective." N.Y. Daily News.
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I was lucky enough to see Jane Anderson's play performed in 1997 with the original cast. The monologues of Monet and CB (the ground crew staffer) have haunted me for the past 11 years.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Or PSH as we've come to refer to him at home) was transcendent. He held the stage, the audience riveted, and in tears when he confessed his part in the Challenger disaster. Jonathan Hadary as Monet was extraordinary as well. He set the tone for the play and I looked forward to his appearances.
As with many wonderful plays, they do not have a thrilling life on the page. If you read Monet's opening monologue you may think, "eh, it's not so great." However, in the hands of an actor--one with a twinkle in his eye--you would be hard pressed to find a better play opener.
All of Anderson's monologues in here are lovely. The play is challenging (no pun intended) but worth pursuing. Especially in these difficult times. Well worth pursuing.