THE ANTIPODES is Annie Baker's mind-bending exposure of the functions and frailties of the narratives we create to define and explain reality. Her focus on story telling (the work is invitingly publicized as "a play about people telling stories about telling stories") is an ingenious cover for a foray into deeper and more aggravating questions of an existential nature. And still, it is incredibly if not darkly funny.
Ron May's direction of THE ANTIPODES (Stray Cat Theatre's Season opener) is nothing short of brilliant and inspired. He has assembled a superb cast: David Weiss, as Sandy, the tense and distracted team leader who declares a sacred and safe space for sharing but ironically abandons with regularity; Louis Farber, Will Hightower, Dolores Mendoza, Michael Peck, Michael Thompson, William Wyss, and Eric Zaklukiewicz as the tiger team story tellers, each of whom delivers a distinctively unique characterization; and Shannon Phelps whose turn as Sandy's attending assistant (either delivering messages from Sandy or taking meal orders or, best of all, delivering a magnificent run-on riff about a personal experience) is a pure gem.
For nearly two uninterrupted hours, the principles orbit around the conference table, taking turns to respond to a series of questions that, at first, verge from intrusive to ordinary (how each person lost his/her virginity, biggest regrets, best mentors, etc.) but become densely philosophical (does time exist on both a vertical and horizontal axis, is there a parallel universe; is the Creation story authentic). The escalator climbs from the sublime to the surreal, accentuated by one dynamic performance after another. A volatile Farber reflecting on a family tradition of shooting oneself in the face. Hightower fixating on questions about the nature of time. Thompson in an electrifying rant about the Creation story. On and on it goes to an ending that simply ends. No answers. But lots of time to contemplate what it's all about.
May has, as he usually does, a theatrical experience of the highest order.