Anthony J. Piccione
I would hope that it wouldn’t be controversial for me to say that bigotry has been on the rise in recent years. It’s been around for a very long time, of course, yet it has been increasingly fueled in recent years by Donald Trump and his so-called “alt-right” allies. We especially see this bigotry take place when discussing topics such as immigration and accepting foreign refugees, and one of the struggles that many have been going through is just how to explain the rise of such racist views to our children, when as it is, it’s hard for so many of us adults to fathom.
Yet that’s exactly what the play Constellarium – now being presented by Rebel Playhouse at the Access Theater – boldly attempts to do, in the form of a bright and colorful science-fiction show.
This interactive tale – the brainchild of playwright/actor Arif Silverman – takes place on the planet of Constellarium, after the people of Earth (i.e. the audience) are forced to seek refuge after their home planet is destroyed. The play is built around this new Planet’s official greeting: “This land is your land. So, too, is it yours.” However, as the audience later discovers upon the arrival of another alien race, not everyone in this universe shares the inclusive philosophy that comes with that greeting, and the result – for us theatergoers – is a very interesting fable…
In the role of Constellarium’s leader – President Falco – Mr. Silverman guides the audience through their journey, doing so with a bright sense of enthusiasm and passion, and also with a wonderful singing voice. Admittedly, while I enjoyed his performance, I couldn’t help but wish there were also more actors in a larger ensemble, taking on the roles of the various characters he mentions in the show. Granted, it seems that the intent was for this to be a one-person show, but still, it did leave me with the feeling that this is something that could easily have been added, and might have enhanced the production further.
Nonetheless, we do still get introduced to various other beings in this show, with the help of various lighting and sound effects, as well as some fine use of projections, which – along with some lights set up across the stage – are also a major aspect of the set design for this production. Overall, the production is staged very nicely, and in terms of the visual aesthetic, it should be quite pleasing to all audiences.
I found this to be a very admirable children’s show, which does as fine a job as anyone could at explaining issues concerning refugees to young audiences. I myself have written many times before here at OnStage Blog about how children’s theatre needs to do more to tackle important issues, and judging by the description I read in the program, it seems that Rebel Playhouse is no stranger to doing exactly that. I’ll certainly be intrigued to see what other shows might end up coming from them, in the future…
“Constellarium" – presented by Rebel Playhouse – runs at Access Theater from February 2nd to February 18th. For more information, please visit www.rebelplayhouse.org.