The Dramat’s fall experimental show, “The Cosmonaut’s Last Message to the Woman he once Loved in the Former Soviet Union,” is true to its title — long, complex and decidedly unconventional.
Following the intertwined lives of two cosmonauts forgotten in space and the people they leave behind on Earth, the play jumps between Oslo, Provence, London, Edinburgh and outer space. The play feels like a drawn-out game of Six Degrees of Separation. Casimir’s daughter Nastasja (Alison Ahn ’03) is having an affair with Keith (Ian Lowe ’04) who is married to Vivian (Zoe Kazan ’05) who meets Bernard (also Lowe), a scientist trying to communicate with the cosmonauts’ spacecraft. If that explanation was not confusing enough, throw in that Lowe doubles as the characters Keith and Bernard; Kazan is both Vivian and Sylvia, a friend of Nastasja’s; and Ahn is Nastasja and Claire, a friend of Vivian’s.
Oleg (Bikram Chatterji ’03) and Casimir (Matthew Conaty ’03) the two cosmonauts that seem to have been left in outer space by the Soviet Union, spend most of their time lamenting their loneliness and trying not to forget what their loved ones look like. Their scenes are good comically, but they’re not on stage enough. Despite the fact that the show runs for over two hours, the audience doesn’t develop enough of a connection with the cosmonauts to make their highly dramatic traumas particularly moving.
Despite the possibilities for confusion, the actors are solid, seamlessly switching costumes, accents and characters. Lowe is comfortable in his dual roles and finds depth in both of his roles. Rather than play both Keith and Bernard as neurotic and one-dimensional, Lowe manages to find the human qualities in each; Keith’s walk into the ocean and Bernard’s stroke are two of the most profound moments of the play.
Zoe Kazan plays the character of Vivian sensitively, never allowing her to become just another victim. Although her gestures look contrived, Kazan has admirable focus and understanding of the character.
Alison Ahn as Nastasja, Casimir’s daughter, is delightfully provocative: after she removes most of her clothing in the first act, the audience expects to be shocked by nothing. But Ahn proceeds to back up physical risks with equally provocative emotional risks, making Nastasja a lovable yet tragic woman forever affected by the loss of her father.
The ensemble is impressive — every character is interesting and well-thought out. Director Michael Lew has a fine touch with his actors, and it shows. Nothing is overdone or affected. The constant shifts between scenes are difficult, but Lew manages to preserve most of the continuity of the show.
“Cosmonaut” is definitely an adventure, and not one for the attention deficient or the sleepy.