“Insignificance” has a very special meaning with careers and marriages of both the famous and infamous at stake. The play is an amazing ensemble performance with Jennifer Brown Peabody as The Actress, Jerry Motta as The Professor, Randy Anger as The Politician and Ryan Terry as The Ballplayer. Their character names are unspoken, but we recognize them as Albert Einstein, Joseph McCarthy, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe.
There is little doubt that the high profile characters of “Insignificance” are people are at the center of their own universe. Solipsism, a character explains, is the idea that only one’s mind exists; anything outside a person’s mind may not be real. “Insignificance” is a whimsical “what if” these famous people met.
Director Edwin Peabody (Onstage Theatre’s new Associate Artistic Director) has skillfully guided the actors in “Insignificance” to create 3 dimensional, believable characters. Playwright Terry Johnson’s 1982 fantasy, about a fictional evening when the lives of Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, two Joes (DiMaggio and Senator McCarthy) intersect depend on the actors being capable of embodying their characters.
Simple premise draws complicated lives together
The premise is simple. Marilyn Monroe bursts into Einstein’s hotel room. It is 1953. Monroe is fresh from filming the famous blowing white skirt scene. Brown-Peabody a skilled comedian, recounts what happened at the shoot by using toys and balloons to demonstrate Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. She anchors this strong cast, with her bubbly shimmies and flirtatiousness. Brown-Peabody’s performance of “The Actress” is magnificent. Diminutive, playful and brassy, it is simple to see why so many want her, she shines in the role.
Jerry Motta’s Einstein is facing an inquisition from Commie hunting Senator Joe McCarthy, who wants to know if the scientist is involved in C0mmunist activities. He implies the creation of the Atom Bomb, and the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are related to Einstein. When pressed, Einstein answers that he chose to come to America, admitting “I chose to escape Dachau.”
Anger roars as McCarthy, interrogating Einstein and demoralizing Marilyn Monroe. Anger’s stern, side-shooting senator has the power to shape the future.
Ryan Terry gum chopping DiMaggio (Monroe’s 3rd husband) explodes into the room with amazing energy. He does not appreciate his wife being dogged by so many men and being at the center of the public eye. He is simple, gruff and demanding, though tender when he speaks of wanting children. The Yankee Clipper’s self-worth is measured in baseball cards.
Designer Diane McRice’s set is simple, yet detailed.
The play hovers around truth. It is a fantasy. This hotel meeting probably never happened, yet our imaginations enjoy the tabloid interpretation. This is fake news at its best — not probable, but possible.
“Insignificance” runs through Oct. 26 at the downtown Campbell Theater, 636 Ward Street in Martinez. For tickets, contact campbelltheater.com or 925-350-9970.