Everything has been the same for millennia. There has always been the bleakness of the void, a single father trying to keep his children fed and safe, and the control strained on them as a result.
The Milky Way Theatre company is founded for and by students to shed well deserved light on young artists across the country. On January 26, 2023 author David Quang Pham was given the opportunity to debut his first project Ellipses, directed by indie arts veteran, Jay Michaels, and excited chatter filled the audience as everyone found their seats. The owners of the 71st Theatre first came to thank everyone and gave insight on their journey renovating a church into a beautiful venue. Just before the show began a heartfelt appreciation for the production was also given from artistic director Jamiel T Burkhart.
Ellipses is an interstellar musical about the birth of a new era and a new onset for a family who has been stuck in the comfort of stagnancy. Metaphors for familial struggle, insecurity, and growth are wrapped in the concepts of our universe in an intelligent yet whimsical way.
Before the big bang we are introduced to our otherworldly family. Singularity is a strong father figure who wants the best for his young ones, and that includes keeping them from exploring the depths of the cosmos around them. For most, that’s just how it’s always been, but for HD1, the eldest galaxy with an unquenchable desire for the unknowable, it’s unacceptable.
With the encouragement of the family pet Gravity, HD1 decides to reach the edge of the universe by any means necessary, even if that means starting something irreversible. And thus the big bang is initiated, rocketing the family apart in more ways than one. The other galaxies are left in the wake of a scuffle between forces and try to pick up the pieces without any direction. This narrative also follows the youngest galaxy, Milky Way, on their journey of growing past adolescence into puberty, and how they haven’t been taken seriously yet.
Each actor gave a stellar performance both in singing and monologue save a few moments of lines being delivered too quietly. You could tell the cast had a sense of comfort working together in the read through. HD1 (Isaac Williams) had palpable emotion in each line and song, the viewer rooting for them to find what they’re searching for. Milky Way (Yasmin Ranz-Lind) depicted the struggle of growing past adolescence in a very relatable way. These two characters shared a frustration of not being seen in different aspects, and that connected them in a beautiful way.
One scene, which had a particular emotional resonance, depicted the planets orbiting the Milky Way, throwing insecurities that shifted almost imperceptibly into heartfelt compliments. This representation of internal struggle was played out aesthetically in both acting and placed onstage.
One small complaint was how many lines relied on specific astronomical and mathematical terminology. This can be charming and funny in smaller doses, but if one didn’t have prior knowledge on the semantics of space you may find yourself a bit confused.
Otherwise it was easy to absorb yourself into the delightful sidelines of even non main characters, like Whirlpool (Kristen Amanda Vargas Smith) and Cartwheel (Karina Ordóñez). The two of them were an electric and hilarious duo that bounced off of each other seamlessly. The score was beautiful, tense, and powerful. It captivated attention from the first tentative notes that welcomed the cast into their first pose.
The collaboration of Musical Director (Simon Brooke) is extremely impressive, it gave a new personalized depth to the project with magical results. Even in moments without song, the added effects of sharp staccato notes and intense drums kept the viewer fully invested in the plot.
Ellipses is ultimately a story of acceptance. Accepting that you cannot quantify or calculate fear, puberty, or family. The search for the edge of the universe represented the wish for freedom. Insecurity manifests as the aspiration to be seen as who you are. No family is perfect; not even the celestial bodies themselves, but they find harmony through working together. Leaving the theater, you’re left with an understanding of the beauty of nothingness.
Nothingness is an opportunity to create anything.