Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Eternal Life Part 1
The Wilma Theater
Review by Rebecca Rendell

Also see Rebecca's recent review of Jimmy Buffett's Escape to Margaritaville

Jennifer Kidwell, Lindsay Smiling, and Steven Rishard
Photo by Johanna Austin
Near the beginning of Nathan Alan Davis's staggeringly powerful and epically inventive new play Eternal Life Part 1, a man demands to know "What can you learn in a year that you can't learn in a day?" The question hits as humorously ridiculous, but as the play goes on, its more serious implications begin to loom large. What goals are worth pursuing over years and decades? When is delaying gratification more important than living in the moment? What could we accomplish if our lives lasted for centuries and what would we owe to the future generations if we had that opportunity?

Currently in its world premiere production at the Wilma Theater, Eternal Life Part 1 is rich with profound questions and mind-bending paradoxes. It is also a warm and accurate depiction of what it feels like to raise a perceptive, bright, and caring young person.

Set in the not-too-distant future, Davis' science fiction fable follows one small family–Woman, Man, Junior, and their not-quite-pet goose–in their deliberate attempt to live good lives. Time skips forward and back, the goose speaks with intelligent insight, and a family of talking snowflakes occasionally swings by, but Eternal Life Part 1 is ultimately about people doing the best they can with the time they are given.

Director Morgan Green has assembled a stellar cast for this visionary production. Steven Rishard is utterly relatable as the practical and optimistic Man, a loving father and husband who is confident he can make the world a better place without leaving his comfort zone. Jennifer Kidwell delivers a powerful performance as the passionate and dedicated Woman. There is a magnetic intensity to Kidwell's focused determination to leave every place better than when she found it. Brandon J. Pierce is excellent as Junior, going from frustrated tween to confident grown man. Rishard, Kidwell, and Pierce share an authentic sense of love, concern and exasperation. Sarah Gliko is impossibly convincing and more than a little disturbing as the Goose. The inimitable Gliko is responsible for the play's funniest and most profound moments.

Set designer Matt Saunders has constructed a next-generation family home that is somehow reminiscent of a brand new iPhone: sleek, simple, occasionally confounding, and a bit cold. The outside of that home–one side perpetually spring and the other side forever snowy winter–is flawlessly executed and excruciatingly enigmatic. Azalea Fairley's ingenious and beautiful costume designs walk the line between modern and futuristic in a way that is downright uncanny. Masha Tsimring's bold lighting designs elevate the entire production.

Ridiculous and profound, wistfully remote and impossibly urgent, asking questions as broad as the universe and as personal as family, Eternal Life Part 1 is fresh and inventive new theater. It is also very funny and engaging from start to finish.

Eternal Life Part 1 runs through April 30, 2023, at the Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad Street, Center City Philadelphia PA. Discounts are available to students and those working in the theater industry. For tickets and information, please visit call the box office at 215-546-7824, or visit our box office in person.

Sarah Gliko: Goose
Brandon J. Pierce: Junior
Steven Rishard: Man
Lindsay Smiling: Gray-Bearded Man
Jennifer Kidwell: Woman

Creative Team:
Set Designer: Matt Saunders
Costume Designer: Azalea Fairley
Lighting Designer: Masha Tsimring
Sound Designer: Jordan McCree
Projection Designer: Alan Price
Stage Manager: Patreshettarlini Adams
Dramaturg: Mariah Ghant