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Off-Off-Broadway Review

NY Review: 'The Lathe of Heaven'

NY Review: 'The Lathe of Heaven'
Photo Source: Jane Stein
While marriages of science fiction and theater rarely prove felicitous, the Untitled Theater Company #61's production of Ursula K. Le Guin's classic science-fiction novel "The Lathe of Heaven" proves a happy union of the two forms. Adapter-director Edward Einhorn presents with clarity and intelligence the fantastic tale of a man whose dreams literally reshape reality, wisely focusing on the humanity of the characters rather than the gee-whiz elements of the story. In so doing he frees us to sink into play without being distracted by its bizarre plot.

"The Lathe of Heaven" is not an unqualified success, however. Einhorn packs the show's dream sequences with Taoist poetry set to composer Henry Akona's atonal melodies, and these cloud the piece with extraneous artiness, rather than advancing or uplifting the action.

The narrative follows George Orr, who is sent to a doctor named Haber after he is caught stealing pills to keep him awake. Orr explains that his dreams have the power to alter existence, and when Haber discovers that this is true he begins to use Orr to modify the world. But the changes never happen straightforwardly. For instance, when Haber tells Orr to dream of peace on earth, aliens appear on the moon, causing the nations of the earth to join forces against a common enemy. Wishing to escape Haber, Orr goes to Heather, a civil rights attorney, but she is unable to help him, though she does fall in love with him. When Haber attempts to use the information he's extracted from Orr to enable himself to shape reality with his own dreams, he almost destroys the world. Orr stops him, but in the process his relationship with Heather is wiped away, and he is forced to woo her all over again.

All four actors turn in crackling performances. As Orr, Robert Honeywell finds the anguished human being trapped inside an extraordinary hero. Carolin Samaan's Heather is a person first and a love interest second. As Dr. Haber, Eric Oleson gives us both a ruthless mad scientist and a genuine seeker of truth. John Gallop's sweet-natured, shambling alien is irresistible.

Jane Stein's bare set provides a lot of open space for the actors to fill with human presence, a must for a show in which projections are omnipresent. Fortunately, Kate Freer and David Tennent provide flowing, poetic video that serves the plot and eschews flashiness for its own sake.

While I invite those interested in alternative music theater to see "The Lathe of Heaven," I recommend inquiring beforehand if the theater's air-conditioning is working. It wasn't on the night I attended, and the 3LD Art and Technology Center became oppressively hot by the end of Act 1. "The Lathe of Heaven" deserves better.

Produced by Untitled Theater Company #61 at 3LD Art and Technology Center, 80 Greenwich St., NYC. June 10–30. Wed.–Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. (No performance Sat., June 16, 3 p.m.) (212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111, or

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