Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery)
Foucheux has the skill to convey the man's erudition as well as his charm, sharing the small moments along with the overwhelming onesand even doing a little song and dance along the way. As the setting is a lecture, he reaches out to the audience and requestsor, rather, demandssome response.
Fuller (1895-1983) was truly a Renaissance manan expert on engineering, physics, architecture, mathematics, and numerous other disciplines despite having been thrown out of Harvard on two different occasions. The basis of his philosophy is that everyone on earth is responsible for everyone else (he coined the term "Spaceship Earth" and noted that we're on our own; it didn't come with an owner's manual) and that the planet and its resources are sufficient to provide an excellent quality of life for all its inhabitants.
He recounts how he could barely see until he got his first pair of glasses at age 4-1/2; describes his growing awareness of the world around him and its geometric patterns, most crucially the triangle; presents sketches from his 66-year marriage (Fuller and his wife, Anne, died within 36 hours of each other); and describes the pivotal moment in 1927 when he gave up struggling for monetary success and began his lifelong "experiment" of doing whatever he could on behalf of all humanity. His optimistic view of the future is refreshing in a world that too often seems mired in mediocrity or worse.
Jacobs premiered the work in 2000 and has tinkered with it ever since, so it now runs as smoothly and sleekly as one of Fuller's prototype Dymaxion aerodynamic cars. David Lee Cuthbert's scenic design incorporates circular arches composed of triangles (the building block of the geodesic dome) and a round floor painted to resemble a swirling universe; Cuthbert's lighting design and Jim Findlay's projections offer one surprise after another; and Luis Perez, composer and sound designer, grounds the performance in the most basic sound of all: a heartbeat.
This production is Arena Stage's last in Crystal City. The company's extensively redesigned complex in Southwest Washington, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, opens in October.