Infinity “marries complex science with family drama” takes the Toronto stage at Tarragon Theatre
In Infinity, a theoretical physicist loves his family but neglects them in pursuit of a Theory of Everything; his wife, a violinist and composer who never wanted their child in the first place, threatens to leave but never does; their daughter grows up to be a mathematician with intimacy issues. Currently onstage at Tarragon as a co-production with Volcano Theatre, Infinity maps the story of these three characters with emotion, a touch of humour, and insight into physics and the nature of time.
Playwright Hannah Moscovitch, a local treasure with international appeal, has married complex science with family drama. Drawing on the help of consulting physicist Lee Smolin, the character of Elliot Green (Paul Braunstein) talks about string theory and how time is an illusion with credibility, as it is based on Smolin’s own work. As someone who has read books like A Brief History of Time and The Elegant Universe and understood around two thirds of them, I know there is art in science and I love to see science in art.
Elliot is not a great person. After convincing Carmen (Amy Rutherford) not to end her pregnancy, he spends the next eight years more focused on his work than on his wife and child. Carmen comes through as a caring mother but is — understandably — a high stress individual, as is their daughter, Sarah Jean (Haley McGee.) We also meet Sarah Jean as an adult reflecting on her love (or lack thereof) life. McGee’s facial expressions are priceless, both as an eight-year-old and a twenty-something, and her transitions between the two are seamless.
Also gracing the stage is violinist Andréa Tyniec, playing original music by Njo Kong Kie to accompany the scene changes and to represent Carmen’s work and Sarah Jean’s youthful practice. The music is lovely, and has a great impact when it mimics certain sounds, such as a heart monitor in a hospital scene.
Death happens in the show, and affects Elliot’s conception of time as nothing but a construct. The death of loved ones, produced as professionally as this, will always hit me in my heart. And I loved the interplay between real-world relationship dynamics and high concept physics.
That said, I didn’t love every moment. In particular, there was a movement section that seemed out of place. It was beautifully choreographed to show the characters’ anxiety, self-consciousness, and dysfunction — but it felt disruptive, like there was no natural place for it to go so it was just stuck in.
The ultimate “lesson” Sarah Jean learns at the end is slightly corny, too — but I could accept it because sometimes corny things are true, and also because the Green family was so screwed up (in a non-abusive way) that it was possible to believe it was an epiphany for the character.
- Infinity is playing at at Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgeman Ave, in a co-production with Volcano Theatre, until May 3, 2015
- Showtimes are Tuesday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2:30pm with select Saturdays at 2:30pm: April 4, April 11, April 18
- Tickets are $50-$55 with discounts for seniors, students, arts workers and groups
- To purchase tickets call at 416.531.1827 or online
Photo of Paul Braunstein, Andrea Tyniec, Haley McGee, Amy Rutherford by Cylla von Tiedemann