Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
We quickly learn that the briefcase operation is actually a mole hunt conducted by the head of British intelligence, Elizabeth Hapgood (McKenna Kerrigan's multifaceted performance is superb), and things did not go as planned. Now, Hapgood and her team must figure out what went wrong, identify the real mole, and find another way to trap an agent who already knows he is being hunted. The spy story is entertaining, but what makes Hapgood truly intriguing are the ambiguous relationships, shifting loyalties, and casual discussions merging particle physics and epistemology.
From statistics in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead to fractals in Arcadia, there is something magical about the way Tom Stoppard uses scientific concepts to reveal the nature of human emotion. In Hapgood, quantum mechanics becomes a way to explain shifting motivations and objectives among the secret agents plotting to identify the traitor in their midst. With remarkable warmth, particle physicist and double (triple? quadruple?) agent Kerner (William Zielinski is phenomenal) invokes wave-particle duality to reject the idea of a single authentic self; attempting to reduce a person to a single set of values or goals is as futile as trying to pin-point the location of an electron. DeLaurier highlights this theme beautifully, reveling in the contradictory aspects of human nature from the first moment to the last.
Nick Embree's impressive scenic design contributes to the production's clarity, and the swift transitions help maintain a brisk pace. Christopher Colucci's original music helps set the mood that Lily Fossner's monochromatic lighting design seems anxious to dispell. Trevor William Fayle gives off an endearingly British charm as Maggs. Christopher Patrick Mullen's dry-witted agent Blair is a perfect foil to Damon Bonetti's hotheaded agent Ridley, but both characters end up feeling a bit one dimensional. Their lack of ambiguity, combined with the production's practiced clarity, obscures the play's more farcical nature.
It may not be perfect, but this Hapgood will certainly keep you guessing and leave you with a lot to think about.
Hapgood, through October 14, 2018, at the Lantern Theater Company's St. Stephen's Theater, 10th & Ludlow Streets, Philadelphia PA. For tickets call 215-829-0395 or visit www.lanterntheater.org.