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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


Splitting Infinity

Also see John's review of Blue/Orange

Splitting Infinity
Stephen Schnetzer and Lisa Bostnar
After originally premiering at the Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, New York; The Florida Stage, in conjunction with Executive Producer Temple Israel, presents the Southeastern premiere of Jamie Pachino's Splitting Infinity.

The story takes place in 2006 in the 10 days between the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is twenty-five years after Leigh Sangold and Saul Lieberman were hopeful young graduate students together. Though their closeness became more than a friendship those many years ago, the fundamental differences between their views of the world made a successful romance unlikely. Since then, they have managed to meet once each week to share their lives as friends. Though they are not lovers, they are each others' touchstones and seeming soul mates.

Leigh is a Nobel Prize winning astrophysicist married to her research. On the eve of her 49th birthday, she seeks a new conquest to give herself a renewed sense of purpose. She chooses the fantastic notion of using scientific methods to disprove the existence of God. She is wise enough to know the proposal will provide publicity, and add fire and fame to a research career she feels has cooled. Parameters of grant funding lead her to reword the stated premise of her research: she is able to receive funding by saying she is attempting to prove rather than disprove the existence of God through science. though her intent remains unchanged. Leigh is forever seeking to "split infinity," but half of infinity is still infinity, and so her thirst is never sated. She sets forth on her mission with the help of her young research assistant Robbie, with whom she is also sharing her bed.

Saul is a married Rabbi, a strong but tenderhearted man who has never fallen out of love with Leigh after all these years. He reveals that he has separated from his wife, and asks Leigh to deal with what is between them emotionally. He feels as he has always felt that they are meant to be. He learns, years later, they are as different as they have always been. While Leigh's God is science and research, Saul's God is the God of the Torah, and he seeks to know the universe by knowing Him. She seeks to know the mysteries of the universe by answering each question with an absolute scientific equation. A defining moment between Leigh and Saul is shown in a graduate school flashback. A fire erupts near their apartment. While Saul rushes from her side to see who may need help, Leigh rushes to record the scientific thoughts and data that have come to her as a result of the fire.

When Robbie is seriously injured in an accident, Leigh is faced by Robbie's mother, Mrs. March. She is a devout Christian Scientist, proud that her son was involved in what she believes was an attempt to prove God. Now in his unconscious state, she chooses to remove his medical assistance and trust in the will of a God she believes he trusts in as well. Robbie passes away after a few hours, leaving Leigh frustrated with the power struggle between science and God. To her it is a choice of logic or faith. She has not found a place where they can both live together.

Leigh seeks solace over the loss of Robbie and momentarily questions her own choices in life. Even in her moment of doubt, however, it is unclear if she longs to regain the heart of her lapsed Judaism or merely the trappings of family and home that surround it. She reaches out for Saul, who announces that he has reconciled with his wife. He leaves her at last to ponder the meaning of her choices, for once uncertain of the merit of her devotion to science over her faith.

Florida Stage has done a fine job of finding two actors to play Saul and Leigh at 25 who really do look like younger versions of the two actors playing Saul and Leigh at 49. Staging by director Louis Terrell seems fairly natural and uncomplicated. Richard Crowell's scenic and lighting design receives applause at the top of the show with the entrance of his astronomy observation platform. Suzette Pare's costuming for Leigh is quite good. Her crisply tailored but still ladylike wardrobe is an accurate extension of her personality.

Author Jamie Pachino's writing is intelligent and perceptive. It is obvious that she has spent time listening to discussions of faith and science, and has researched her subject matter. Each side is represented without sternness or judgment. As Leigh, actress Lisa Bostnar handles the scientific language with believable comfort, and clearly avoids making her character the stereotypically cold or distant business woman. As Saul, Steven Schnetzer pulses with palpably longing for Leigh. At the same time, he possesses a centered quality one would hope to find in a Rabbi. Together the two actors navigate a voluminous amount of dialogue with directness and style. How wonderful it would be if all differences of opinion involving faith could be conducted in such a reasonable fashion.

Playwright Jamie Pachino is also the author of Waving Goodbye, The Return to Mortality, Aurora's Motive and Race. She is the recipient of more than two dozen awards, including the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays, Chicago's Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work, and the Laurie Foundation Award. She is currently working on screenplays for Dreamworks, Vanguard Films and Lifetime Television.

Splitting Infinity plays at the Florida Stage through June 11, 2006. The theater is located in Plaza del Mar, at 262 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan. The Florida Stage is a professional, non-for profit theater, with a commitment to new and emerging works. They hire both Equity and Non-Equity performers from across the United States, and have an extensive programs for young artists. Tickets and other information may be obtained by calling the box office at (561) 585-3433 or (800) 514-3837, or on line at www.floridastage.org.

Cast
Leigh Sangold: Lisa Bostnar*
Saul Lieberman: Stephen Schnetzer*
Young Leigh: Tory Shulman*
Young Saul: Dustin Sullivan*
Robbie March: Brad Barfield
Mrs. March: Lourelene Snedeker*

Crew
Director: Louis Tyrrell+
Scenic & Lighting Design: Richard Crowell
Sound Design: Matt Kelly
Costume Design: Suzette Pare
Production Stage Manager: James Danford*

* Designates member of Actors' Equity Association: the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
+ Designates member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.


Photo: Bruce Bennett


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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