By Edward Childress and Lucas Naber
Taking a conversational approach to difficult issues ranging from dementia and sibling rivalries to the ethics of computer hacking and visions of global catastrophe, “Mosquitoes” – running at the Steep Theatre (1115 W Berwyn Ave.) through Nov. 16 – explores daily human relationships and scientific dilemmas with the help of two believable lead performances.
Written by Lucy Kirkwood and directed by Jaclynn Jutting, the play stars Cindy Marker as Alice, an impatient British scientist who has spent over a decade working at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland.
It’s 2008, and Alice is an obsessive intellectual with a higher tolerance for her particle physics research than for helping her son, Luke (Alexander Stuart), or younger sister, Jenny (Julia Siple), solve their personal problems.
The Steep Theater’s production of “Mosquitoes” entertains audiences by channeling Kirkwood’s compelling story through Marker and Siple’s naturalistic lead performances.
Marker’s curt portrayal depicts Alice as a workaholic who struggles to turn off her scientific demeanor in personal settings, causing her professional confidence to read more like arrogance to her family.
Sipes’ turn as Jenny evokes a traumatized, anxious woman struggling to balance caring for her dementia-stricken mother and making a living with the stresses of a demanding world.
Naturally, Alice and Jenny’s opposite personalities cause problems, punctuated by moments where the frustration boils over, like when Alice describes Jenny as “completely devoted to being stupid.”
But while Jenny is no scientist, she’s the one who’s able to offer support when Luke has an embarrassing social media mishap, not Alice.
According to Stephen Dalton in Hollywood Reporter, the play’s title refers to “somewhat of a strained metaphor for the infinitesimally small particles that hurtle around the Large Hadron Collider, subatomic specks that could potentially trigger catastrophic consequences on an intergalactic scale”.
Alice is part of the team of scientists searching for the Higgs Boson particle, a hard-to-find particle known more commonly as the “God particle” for its significance in the particle science field. Her research centers around the titular “mosquitoes,” yet the parallels between Alice’s observation subjects and her family are lost on her.
Jutting’s direction does a nice job of holding together a bundle of themes. This is a family drama that addresses the ethics of computer hacking, visions of global catastrophe and a possible new Big Bang, all without losing focus on its characters.
“Mosquitoes,” which runs two hours and 40 minutes with an intermission and is intended for adult audiences, just had its run at Steep Theatre (1115 W Berwyn Ave.) extended until Nov. 16. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 3:00 p.m.
General admission tickets are $27 and can be found, along with more ticket options at www.steeptheatre.com, or over the phone at 773-649-3186.