Unfinished Business

An aged Albert Einstein (Richard Saudek) says to an impatient and menacing Time (Lucy Kaminsky) “I have long felt you by my side but there is so much work to do.” The same sentiment can be applied to Triple Shadow’s Breath on the Mirror , which seems more like a work in progress than a finished production. Conceived and directed by Beth Skinner, in collaboration with composer Edward Herbst and videographer Paul Clay, Breath on the Mirror is a multimedia production set in the last year of Einstein’s life. With the assistance of Time, Einstein looks back at his younger self and his relationship with Mileva Maric (Gabrielle Autumn), a former student who became his first wife. The show includes live music, video, mask, puppetry, and dance, making it a truly multi-media, interdisciplinary performance.

Unfortunately, all of these elements have little to rest on as the play itself is missing a clear narrative to connect its various components. Breath on the Mirror is about an hour long, and much of the piece feels unfinished. Rather than witnessing a cohesive evening of performance, Breath on the Mirror is a collection of presentational moments loosely knit together. Throughout the evening, there are moments that are visually impressive and theatrically engaging, but there is not whole, only parts.

Several ideas are presented in the play, but none of them seem fully developed in spite of the artistry of the presentation. The videography for the show is a splendid example of how the video transforms and shapes a space. While each video installment provides a new opportunity, the performers have little engagement with the created space. The projections, which include live-feed video, move us from classroom, to moving train, to forest, and back again. At the beginning of the play, Time writes equations on a chalkboard that is projected onto the back wall of the theater. Einstein can barely keep up with the larger than life notations, a suggestion that the ideas Einstein was wrestling with were much larger than Einstein himself.

Given the first exchange between Einstein and Time (who I presumed was Death until I looked at the program), a competition has been set up between them. Who doesn’t want more time? However, the need for the competition is unclear especially as it relates to the decision to explore Einstein’s relationship with his first wife. It was during this time of his life that he started to develop his theory of relativity, but this play suggests that there is a personal relationship between man and wife that has not been adequately dealt with. What does Einstein need from Mileva? Forgiveness? A second chance?

One element that particularly stands out as successful is Herbst’s live music, which helps to shape and drive the piece. He plays several instruments throughout the evening. Repetitive melodies juxtaposed with jarring, sharp accents frame perceptions of time as either rolling merrily along or moving faster than light.

On the whole, however, Breath on the Mirror seeks to create a performance piece that questions our ideas of time and existence, but ultimately leaves too many dramatic questions unanswered.

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