Regional Reviews: Cincinnati
Then it's announced that a miracle drug, Prometheus, is about to come on the market, and that leads to some dramatic changes in their lives and plans for coupledom. The drug essentially stops human cells from aging, so an injection means your current age will be set–forever. There are some limits: No one 35 or older is eligible (in fact, it's fatal for such people), but that's not a problem for Gina and David, both in their early 30s. They decide to apply together for the inoculation, which includes a lot of rules and preparations, so there is plenty of time for more complex considerations and hesitations to creep in.
For instance, they have indicated to one another that children are not part of their intentions, but second thoughts creep in. David's rocky relationship with his father, who unexpectedly dies, makes him rethink the implications of living forever. Gina has been close with her only sister, Alex, who is beyond the age of eligibility and has a child. Those factors significantly change the tenor of their sibling relationship when it becomes evident that Alex's family will age while Gina remains unchanged. The couple makes a hurried decision to marry, but they soon realize that they might not be on exactly the same road to the future. They are in love, but the fallout of this decision gives them several reasons to rethink. Playwright Dring is more serious about exploring the push and pull of this wrinkle in time and life than in coming to any clear resolution, be it happy or sad.
The drug's name has mythical overtones. Prometheus is the Greek demigod who gives fire to humanity and then is perpetually tortured by the other gods for doing so, chained to a rock and attacked daily by a voracious eagle that tears out his liver. One might think that giving such a name to an experimental drug would be a significant warning flag, but the promise of immortality apparently overwhelms rational consideration.
David teaches classics, the study of ancient languages and literature, so mythical references are especially meaningful as the story unfolds–in particular, the play's title. The dictionary definition of "kairos" says it's an ancient Greek word meaning "a propitious moment for decision or action." David has shared one of his textbooks with Gina, and she has learned that Greeks perceived three kinds of time: One, Chronos, is the straight path of time leading toward death. Aion means eternity (what we would call an "eon"). Kairos, she has learned, suggests time as a spiral, as seasons, as rhythm. Put such a title on a play, and it's a sign that life will not move straightforwardly, instead cycling through seasons of existence. Of course, that's not the case for immortal beings.
That theme is underscored by Andrew Hungerford's lighting and scenic design in the form of a large tree festooned with leaves made of hundreds of squares of translucent plastic. With colored lighting, the tree passes through seasons, marking the passage of time and paralleling the impact of the decisions Gina and David consider and make. There's not much else in the way of scenery other than a park bench. But the back of the stage is shrouded with plastic draping, also translucent, which changes colors and is occasionally a palette for projected images of the actors during moments when their inner thoughts are shared with the audience by pre-recorded voices over a sound system. It's clear that director Rebecca Wear has worked closely with designer Hungerford to execute these elements–described as various options and choices to be made for specific productions in Dring's script–in ways that enhance and underscore the story and the themes it explores.
Wear's actors each convey their characters vividly. Rader, a regular with both Know and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, brings the feisty and independent Gina to life, guarded at first but not unwilling to explore love. She is a source of energy and strength, but she is equally capable of demonstrating vulnerability. Richmond's David tends to be more soft-spoken. However, he has a complicated past of relationships with his parents and others, and he must swing from eager and compromising to grieving and short-tempered in the face of several unexpected emotional turns of events. He does so convincingly.
This production of Kairos is the most satisfying of Know's current season thus far, one that fans of the company's frequently avant garde work should turn out to see. It's left me thinking about what I would do if I had the chance to live forever. I'm too old for Prometheus, but it's an intriguing idea.
Kairos runs through March 3, 2024, at Know Theatre of Cincinnati, 1120 Jackson Street, Cincinnati OH. For tickets and information, please visit www.KnowTheatre.com or call 513-300-5669.