NJ Rep brings their audience another outstanding production
The New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, the premiere venue for exciting and challenging new works, has come up with another in a string of outstanding productions with Voyager One by Jared Michael Delaney. It is a play that demands its audience’s attention, rewarding it with intertwined stories about communicating with people both here on Earth and out among the stars.
Voyager One is made up of two stories played out in alternating scenes. In the late 1970s, two NASA scientists, Carl and Sarah, prepare a list of music and other audio selections to be recorded on golden records as part of the two Voyager spaceships. In the far future, Ceygan, a scientist, is studying “Woman,” an artificial intelligence in female form which has just awakened after a 150-year dormancy since its arrival on Earth. In each story, the male character (played by Joe Carlson) initiates forming a working relationship with the female (played by Daven Ralston), although thankfully neither relationship evolves into a romance. The play demonstrates the difficulties of reaching true understanding through communication, showing that everyone—even an artificial intelligence—has something about themselves they wish to keep from others.
Evan Bergman skillfully guides his actors through the nuances of the play. Joe Carlson balances his characters’ need to know and desire to help with their attempts to respect boundaries. Daven Ralston’s characters try, in their own ways, to maintain an emotional distance until such time as their trust has been justified. An additional character in the future story is Ceygan’s database, heard but not seen. As voiced by Mare Akana, the database, while maintaining a neutral tone of voice, uses timing and phrasing to convey a sense of burgeoning feelings and thoughts. It is a difficult task, but one Ms. Akana performs splendidly.
Scenic designer Jessica Parks sets the play on a stark white stage with a large central table and two chairs. Lighting designer Jill Nagle and sound designer Merek Royce Press create stunning special effects, especially during the future story. Patricia E. Doherty’s costumes consist of basic outfits with accessories that quickly and easily convey character changes.
Jared Michael Delaney’s Voyager One is a tersely-written 90 minute play with not one word of padding. This is a play with outstanding acting and fine direction. It is a privilege to watch, and the New Jersey Repertory Company is to be applauded for presenting it. I cannot more strongly recommend that you make the trip to Long Branch to see Voyager One before its run ends.