Directed by E. Bonnie Lewis and Ken Gilbert, with sets and lighting by Theodore Michael Dolas and musical direction by Eric Valinsky, Defying Gravity's cast will consist of Joe Andrieu, Erica Connell, Ken Gilbert Michelle Osborne, Meredith McMinn, Juan Rodriguez and Natascha Skerczak.
The temporal mooring for the piece is the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster and the effects it had on a number of people, closely or distantly connected to the event.
Since one of the main characters — indeed, the overseer of the various interactions — is the Impressionist painter Claude Monet, who was 60 years in his grave when the Challenger went down, the connections are sometimes very distant indeed.
The other characters include a Christa McAuliffe-like "Teacher," a retired couple in Florida to witness the launch, a member of the ground crew — originally played by Philip Seymour Hoffman — the proprietress of a restaurant-bar frequented by astronauts, and a girl based on McAuliffe's daughter.
However solidly the play is grounded in historical reality, the author admits that Defying Gravity "is my most nonrealistic play yet." And the original producer of the play, Daryl Roth, adds a positive spin to the "nonrealistic" aspect with, "The play is very magical — in a sense, sort of an impressionist painting itself, the way all the brush strokes of the characters relate to the launch."
How Anderson manages to transform the dismal story of the Challenger crash into an uplifting, even inspiring, parable — and she does just that — is something you will have to attend a performance to find out.
Defying Gravity plays at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20 for general admission, and $15 for students and seniors, and they may be purchased at the door, by phone at 805.963.0408, or online by clicking here.