What happens when a young writer and an astrophysicist meet up on a Bumble date? Well, in the case of Darrow (Jeff Ronan) and Lucia (Shubhangi Kuchibhotla), the main characters in Allan Maule’s lively new play The Weight of Everything We Know, making its world premiere through Theatre Raleigh, the answer would be a carefree hookup. Except on this particular date night, which opens the play, something major happens. The kilogram officially changes its mass, which means big problems for Lucia’s research and a sudden end to their Bumble date.
However, as viewers quickly learn, Darrow is nothing if not persistent, and he continues to pursue a frenzied Lucia, helping her not just with her work, but with a sudden immigration hearing as well. As the drama unfolds and their relationship strengthens, Maule’s believable, clever character banter guides the way, supported by Michael Berry’s active, energized direction. In his capable hands, these two characters never stay still. Instead, they’re always in motion. They walk across platforms, flail their hands, and run around the room in ways that feel completely natural and effortless and add to both the show’s realism and visual appeal. At one point, Darrow even brings out a Smart Board and speaks directly to the audience. That same board also projects other “characters” that move and interact without saying a word, opening up an entire world with a mere two-person cast.
All of this action plays out on Sonya Leigh Drum’s sleek, galaxy-themed set. Nestled inside the wonderfully intimate TR Studio Theatre, the set features a clear but loosely structured line of demarcation, highlighting the vastly different (but not impenetrable) worlds these two characters come from. Berry’s staging uses this smart setting to perfection, physically bringing the characters together and separating them as their emotional states and their relationship fluctuate.
And, as the two “flirt over physics,” fight, and struggle to find common ground and a place a in each other’s orbit, the actors never miss a beat. Though Maule’s dialogue is wonderfully dense, Kuchibhotla and Ronan handle it with an effortless aplomb. Ronan, as always, overflows with endearing charm. He creates a sweet, devoted, but not pathetic Darrow, one who gazes at Lucia with an enamorment so real it’s palpable. Even when the jokes fly a mile a minute, he keeps up the comedic pacing with perfection, and when the time comes to get serious and deliver an impassioned monologue, he’s up for that challenge too, demonstrating an impressive range and making this well-written character all the more likable.
Similarly, doe-eyed Kuchibhotla helps make Lucia a rich, multi-faceted character, blending strength and vulnerability into a sweet melange. Together, their chemistry is unstoppable and causes viewers to take notice and root for these characters against all odds and logic.
That strong characterization is one of the many binders holding Maule’s quirky, original script together. As a writer, he also places full faith in his audience. Akin to Aaron Sorkin, he is not afraid to let his characters speak quickly and naturally. He allows them to bombard the audience with whiplash-style humor and emotion. Maule believes his viewers can keep up, and so they do.
The 80 minutes spent in Lucia and Darrow’s world fly by just as fast as the dialogue, and every moment is worth the gritty, gripping, and uber-charming ride. These are characters worth caring about, and this is a show worth seeing, one that proves the short play isn’t dead and, in fact, deserves new life.
This original story plays out through June 11, and tickets are available here.
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