Theater Spotlight: 800 Words: The Transmigration of Philip K. Dick


Victoria Stewart's new play opens with science-fiction madman Philip K. Dick (Luverne Seifert) experiencing one whale of a morning after: He has just spent the night receiving what he perceives as a dense transfer of information from God, beamed right into his fevered cranium. His wife, Tessa (Mo Perry), quite reasonably tries to find out what chemical brew he might have ingested (Dick having a solid track record in recreational pharmaceuticals), but the truth is even more disturbing: Dick felt the experience was real, and it profoundly changed his life. Much of Stewart's first act (directed by Jeremy Wilhelm) has the feel of aftermath, with the obsessed author taking a wrecking ball to his marriage amid blinding blasts of insight into the nature of reality. (In one great scene, Dick reapplies the needle over and over to the opening guitar burst of the Beatles' "She Said She Said," spouting profundities while also coming across as a complete nut case.) The script sticks close to Dick's real-life biography, with his incurable paranoia, delusions, and, convincingly, transcendent brilliance. It's the second act, though, that one suspects would tickle the writer most deeply; Stewart writes herself into the story (played by Allison Moore), showing up from the future to explain to Dick that he's a character in a play, his every action scripted. Seifert at first plays Dick's reaction as appalled, then increasingly intrigued. While this production walks an apt line between what is real and what is otherwise (Kimberly Richardson operates the puppet cat Sasha, who serves as verbal sparring partner for the housebound Dick), it ultimately begins to sag under the weight of trying to do and say too much. Dick's fixation on apprehending what lies beneath reality's veil fueled his astonishingly imaginative fiction, and it hounded him to the edge of madness and probably beyond. There's a tremendous story here, but it's one that exhausts when examined from several angles too many. (To be fair, the same thing happened to Dick's own writing.) Still, taken as a whole, we have a vivid picture of a man who simply couldn't help but go too far—presumably, because it was there. $8-$15. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday. 2301 Franklin Ave. E., Minneapolis; 612.332.7481. Through June 7