Eva Knott 4:04 a.m., May 23
Soon-to-be-divorced Nancy, her mother Louise, and unwed, six-months-pregnant Jenny are sitting around, trashing men. Jerks're this. Gobs of that. And worse.
Men. Can't live with 'em. Can't euthanize...
One muses about a "life without men." Next thing you know, eerie sounds emanate, and the stage goes Lysistrata - only the women don't just withhold sex to stop a war. They vanish into a parallel universe. They can be in the same room with men, sit on the same sofa, but a separation occurs. And who knows when, or if - or even if it should - rejoin them.
Steven Oberman's new, audience-participation comedy explores seven months of The Disappearance. In alternating scenes, the male and female characters adapt: some assume heretofore "traditional" roles for the other gender: three days a week, Michael dresses like former wife Nancy and plays mother to 12-year-old son Kyle; Nancy becomes a dressed-for-success CEO and encounters harrassment at the workplace. Others explore sexual alternatives.
There will be no more children. But what about fertilization? "Womanizing"'s a dead issue.
It's never clear how the change happens - God rebooted his computer? - or how the Reappearance comes about. What's interesting, and what Oberman could probe more, is how all standard definitions vanish. The premise, borrowed from Philip Wylie's novel The Disappearance, opens up numerous possibilities.
Vanished is a world premiere, but feels like a work-in-progress. Some moments are downright funny, often when a fact of the brave new world(s) suddenly registers.
The play's eight scenes are uneven, however: now information, now character development, now drama. Also, the audience-participation has plusses (as when the chosen perform winningly on the spot) and minuses (the time taken to set up the bits, move them on and off, halts momentum).
The combination puts actors between worlds as well. They do scripted scenes and improvise, which can throw off their timing.
James P. Darvas fares well as perplexed Michael and the pre-show cocktail party host. Rebecca Noland does what she can with Nancy, though the character's mostly a one-note complainer. Alex Guzman delivers fine comedic bits as sex-crazed, then sex-starved Darin.
Along with exploring the premise, the playwright needs to sharpen the dialogue, especially between Michael and Nancy. Most divorces play out like a bad, overwritten B-movie. Theirs is no exception. But their verbal choices shouldn't be so predictable.
Swedenborg Hall, 1531 Tyler Avenue, University Heights, playing through August 18.