In Randy Wyatt's '9x9x9,' Coda Theater Project offers a kooky thought piece on life / death and the power of God, but a lack of clarity in presentation undercuts some of the fun

Arts Review


play! Theatre, through May 6

Running time: 1 hr, 30 min

In a universe not too unlike our own, a battle between the forces of good and evil plays out. A young woman finds herself accidentally stuck in a cosmic pre-apocalyptic game. One black box with the dimensions of 9-by-9-by-9 determines the outcome. Coda Theater Project extends an existential metaphor into literal doom in a new play by Randy Wyatt. 9x9x9, titled after this box of miraculous power, is a curious combination of absurdism dancing in the realm of theosophic speculation, with a dysfunctional family, a New Age neighbor, and an unfortunate pizza-delivery guy thrown into the mix.

The production is ambitious in its intersecting plotlines. Vicki, played by Zena Marie Franklin, unexpectedly received a black box in an airport, and ever since, she has been followed by every type of mercenary force seeking to acquire it. Now, she's locked herself up in her home, gun holster strapped to her chest, fully packing. Family wholesomeness is absent, with Mom and Dad separated but still living under the same roof and in turbulent communication. Dad (Zac Crofford) is cavalier in his rediscovery of playboy freedom. So immersed in libidinous urges is he that Vicki's best friend, Lenore (Kate Meehan), becomes his willful lover. Mom (Cynthia Mance) has taken to drinking with transcendental junkie Minerva (Lisa Scheps). To top it all off, a man dressed in a mock-up of Billy Idol or a 1950s greaser (Christopher Loveless) keeps mysteriously appearing in Vicki's home, demanding she hand over the box.

Eventually, we gather that the box is a missing particle of God that did not properly dissipate in its fall through Earth's atmosphere – a kitschy notion, but one that offers some philosophical fodder to chew on. However, the execution of the production falls short in places that could have used more focus. As an ensemble, the cast is comfortably cohesive, but, individually, each character seems intent on taking the spotlight from the others. Perhaps the point is this: We are selfish, cruel, and incapable of an intimate connection with another human being. But if that's the case, then it should be clarified in the presentation, through either excessively grand or intentionally diluted expression. (I am thinking of Hal Hartley's film repertoire.) The show hovers between what appears to be realism and a Beckett-like absurdism, which is okay, but I would have preferred an intentional exploitation of the genres so that I didn't have to guess at it. This discomforting confusion may be director Josie Tucker's problem to solve. The performances by Franklin, Meehan, Mance, and Loveless foster playful extremism in this kooky thought piece on life, death, and the power of God. The show's strengths are mostly represented in physical comedy, such as Cody Hudson's perpetually dead-then-alive body being tossed about and shoved into crammed spaces.

Conceptually, the premise is fascinating and contemplative. Coda Theatre Project is a company with loads of potential and a knack for choosing and offering theatre audiences fresh takes on classic themes. I hope that as their production résumé expands, so too does their depth in presentation.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Arts Reviews
All the Way
All the Way
In Zach Theatre's staging of this epic political drama about LBJ, the fight for civil rights feels particularly urgent

Robert Faires, May 1, 2015

Random Acts of Magic
Random Acts of Magic
The 2015 batch of Out of Ink 10-minute plays is a satisfying buffet of silliness and thoughtfulness

Elizabeth Cobbe, May 1, 2015

More by Heather Barfield Cole
Arts Review
Double Exposure
In Double Exposure, writer/performers Wayne Alan Brenner and David Jewell offer old and new material they've created, and their knack for capturing nuance in the mundane entertains

Nov. 17, 2006

Arts Review
Bad Dates
Theresa Rebeck's Bad Dates is a guilty pleasure, offering reflections on relationships, jobs, fashion, and dating through genuinely captivating monologues

April 21, 2006


9x9x9, Coda Theater Project, Randy Wyatt, Zena Marie Franklin, Zac Crofford, Kate Meehan, Cynthia Mance, Lisa Scheps, Christopher Loveless, Josie Tucker, Cody Hudson

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle