Maggie (Ellen David) and Axel (Gregory Porter Miller) meet in a nondescript motel room on a regular basis to engage in an affair. They share details of their regular lives and have fashioned a nice little arrangement full of intimacy but with little of the baggage incurred by marriage. Fear not, though: Many Worlds, William Borden's new play, is no salacious melodrama about bed-hopping marrieds. Far from it. In fact, Worlds uses the context of the infidelity as a springboard to analyze far more metaphysical matters in a strikingly entertaining way.
Borden's position is that everyone lives in a universe and that people navigate between these different worlds as a result of the choices they make. Axel is consumed by these ideas from quantum physics and insists that with each choice, a new world begins and co-exists with the world that one currently inhabits at the moment. (Any moment in which two of these worlds collide is what creates the sensation of déjà vu.) Maggie, on the other hand, wants to know less about what the future has in store.
As Worlds progresses along its path, director Isaac Byrne has the play travel back and forth within Maggie's different worlds, represented by fast-paced scene changes between Maggie and Axel, Maggie and her husband Skip (Greg Horton), and even Axel and Skip alone together. Each character wonders if he or she has made the right decision, or if a better, happier life awaits in an alternate world.
Worlds is more than just a play for medicinal purposes, a work it might seem necessary to sit through. It's actually quite gripping while never feeling too heavy-handed. Audiences shouldn't be confused or intimidated by Borden's subject matter, as Byrne guides the action along with such a deft hand that the play is quite easy to follow. The dialogue is candid and often rapid-fire, even when discussing such abstruse topics as Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.
A show like Worlds creates a mighty challenge for itself, building at a steady pace yet making each character's lines sound natural, as if his or her thoughts were always occurring in that given moment. In doing so, it allows these concepts a better chance to filter though the minds of the audience members. This should come as no surprise to those familiar with Working Man's Clothes, the production company whose impeccable standards led it to a clean-sweep victory at last year's New York Innovative Theater Awards for its production of To Nineveh.
As always, Working Man's Clothes is blessed to work with a cast of exceptional actors. David somehow does the impossible, combining all of Maggie's warring emotions—her fears, her longing, her sensuality, her doubts, and her needs—into one perfect patchwork.
Miller, too, is utterly believable at every turn. He makes it clear that Axel's growing understanding of his own mortality has led him to ponder the role of certainty in life. Watching the two of them together at times felt so real that Worlds approaches voyeurism, yet the only things bared in the show are what lurks in the mind and the soul. Horton also maintains an intriguing presence throughout the play, although Borden provides a little less substance for Skip than he does for Maggie and Axel.
Nonetheless, all three characters play a vital role in this thought-provoking play. They all question their reality, but in Byrne's hands, there is one truth firmly steeped in reality: Working Man's Clothes has mounted another must-see show.