Courtesy TalkinBroadway.com. Reprinted with permission.
The God Particle Complexis pretty much exactly what some people expect when they think of Fringe shows: a work-in-progress just out of the staged reading phase, under-rehearsed, on a shoestring budget, featuring such memorable imagery as alien-types wearing collars made out of bubble wrap. There may well be a genuinely good play hiding in this self-proclaimed “science farce,” but it isn’t fully developed yet, and the loopy direction doesn’t particularly help.
The concept is actually a pretty good one. What would happen, the show asks, if the scientists at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) conclude that the Large Hadron Collider has failed in its mission to document the existence of the Higgs Boson particle? As the show explains, Higgs Boson is a particle predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics. If Higgs Boson does not, in fact, exist, the Standard Model is wrong, everything we thought we knew about particle physics is mistaken, and the nature of the universe is pretty much up for grabs. It’s a big deal. Everyone expects Higgs Boson to be there; if CERN conclusively concludes that it isn’t, that pulls the rug out from underneath science.
The God Particle Complex introduces these concepts in a clever way that’s easy to understand—having two people collide around the stage like particles in the accelerator, while someone else explains. Shortly thereafter, we hear a press conference in which the President of CERN announces that, in fact, they’ve got enough data to establish that Higgs Boson definitely does not exist.
Two CERN scientists are shocked by the news. Dr. Feldman takes things somewhat philosophically, concluding that, even though we didn’t learn what we thought we’d learn, we learned something, and that’s always a good thing. Besides, if the Standard Model is wrong, that opens up the possibility that his own wacky view of the universe is correct. Dr. Fleurmon is rather more distraught; his entire world view (not to mention his life’s work) has been destroyed, and he’s nearly paralyzed by fear of the now unknown. Both Scott Harris as Feldman and Andrew Wheeler as Fleurmon play up the comedy in their roles; they are your standard scientists who lack social skills. Indeed, they are introduced as “self-important, self-congratulatory bozos.” This may not be the best way to approach the characters; there’s nothing particularly funny about over-nerding up these guys, and the unfunny comedy buries the interesting philosophical discussion.
A similar problem occurs later in the play, when Feldman and Fleurmon are visited by a time-traveller (wearing a silver bodysuit and goggles). The visitor has a critical message for Dr. Fleurmon, but it’s hard to take him seriously with all of Karl Ramsey’s scenery-chewing. This plotline itself is interesting; it’s a new twist on the problem of the time-traveller changing the past, and it leaves Feldman and Fleurmon trying to puzzle their way out of the destruction of the universe they’d simply been trying to understand.
When the play is throwing causality loops, multi-dimensional science, and micro black holes at us, it would do better to cut down on the unrestrained silliness in the execution, and let the play, and the humor inherent in it, speak for itself.
Art Via Corpora presents The God Particle Complex written and produced by Chris Bell and Joshua Zeller. Directed by Debbie McMahon. Set and Sound Design by Chris Bell; Poster artwork by Nathan Kornelis; Publicity by Joshua Zeller.
Sven – Roy Starr
Dr. Feldman – Scott Harris
Dr. Fleurmon – Andrew Wheeler
CERN Public Relations – Kate Grabau
The President of CERN – Brian Brophy
The Visitor – Karl Ramsey
The Cosmic String – Elyse Ashton & Kevin Dulude
The God Particle Complex is part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, and runs selected dates through June 18 at Artworks Theatre. For tickets, see hollywoodfringe.org/projects/996
About the Author: Sharon is the Los Angeles regional critic for TalkinBroadway.com, a position she has held since 2000. She is a proud member, and current Vice President, of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. Sharon is pleased to reprint her Hollywood Fringe Festival reviews here, with the generous permission of TalkinBroadway.com.