Annex Theatre, 1122 E. Pike St., 728-0933, annextheatre.org. $5–$20. 8 p.m. Thurs.–Sat. Ends May 17.
Sometimes events do not have logical causes. This is considered a state of disorder, or, simply put, chaos. In local playwright Courtney Meaker’s new absurdist tragicomedy (aptly subtitled “A Play Seeking Order”), there seems to be exactly that—a series of events that don’t fit together. That doesn’t mean there isn’t exposition; in fact, Chaos Theory is replete with rather dense character development, plot twists, and pathos.
The audience is dropped, mid-despair, into the living room of Frannie (Keiko Green) as she’s coping with the loss of her lover. Her quirky friends, male-identifying Bach (Evelyn Dehais) and goofy, dim-witted Seth (Drew Highlands), attempt to pull her out of this funk by introducing her to a book on chaos theory. The result is Frannie’s shift from distraught to determined: She will find out what happened to her partner.
For Frannie, it’s easier to theorize than to admit Mack (Jana Hutchison) could’ve abandoned her. As her infatuation with chaos theory grows (and by default her friends’ fascination, too), she builds what seems to be an alternate-reality machine in her living room. Frannie, Bach, and Seth each have their motives for using this machine. (The three are so different, and so alike, that they may as well be facets of the same individual.)
We never leave Frannie’s living room. Characters enter and exit, and we see action outside the door and windows. The set and character asides give the eerie feeling of being trapped inside a sitcom (there’s even a laugh track), but there’s nothing funny about being trapped in a situation you can never escape.
Amid this absurdity, Meaker and director Pamala Mijatov force us to make sense of the action, but in the end we succumb to the hopelessness and futility of existence, love, and identity. Chaos Theory starts off gimmicky and cute, yet it ultimately makes us, and Frannie, confront the limits of common sense.